Barry McIlheney, Zoo launch supremo, and former Loaded editor James Brown hailed the relaunch of the Sport as a cross-between ‘Zoo, Nuts, Bravo and Sky Sports’last month. But at first glance, it doesn’t feel like too much has changed with the paper. The masthead is the same, ditto the type face.
In a bid to bring back mainstream advertising, the front of the book has been cleaned up. There are no sex phoneline ads and no real-girl confessions in the main body of the paper.
Instead, they have put the most X-rated copy and ads in a new daily pull-out X-TRA! –’The UK’s Only Adult Entertainment Guide”.
It’s a simple way to segment the ads and the stronger editorial away from the main part of the paper. However, whether it’s enough of a change to satisfy major advertisers – the likes of Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Carling – is debatable.
Elsewhere, there are certainly signs of lads’ mag traits being brought into the product by McIlheney.
The Sport’s showbiz gossip column, which was formerly fronted by female reporters and followed the usual shenanigans of pop stars and WAGs in imitation 3am style, has been replaced by a front-of-book footie gossip spread, Back of the Net.
However, the problem with daily non-transfer football gossip columns is there usually isn’t enough to fill them day in, day out. Remember The Daily Mirror’s 3pm column was quickly shunted to a Saturday-only slot.
Hence the column lead on Monday wasn’t even a story – but a list entitled ’12 things we love about football”, which seemed somewhat desperate.
By doing this, the Sport has also decided blokes don’t want showbiz.
Personally, I am not convinced that’s the case. I think British men don’t like to admit they like showbiz – but read it despite themselves.
After all, showbiz dominates The Daily Mirror, The Sun and the Daily Star, all of which are read by more men than women. So, are we really to believe their male readers ignore all the articles on showbiz, as they turn to the football?
The new look Sport, however, is certain their readers love football… and lists.
Hence Monday’s splash was ‘They think it’s all minnow-ver”, to celebrate the weekend of FA Cup giant-killing. A smart headline.
Inside, the team echoed men’s freebie Shortlist with follow-up lists. So in response to the pitch invasion at the end of the Barnsley victory over Chelsea, the Sport listed the ‘Top five pitch invasions’which is very traditional mag follow-up territory.
More obvious echoes of Zoo came in the ‘Footylikes’sidebar – an old favourite – and the ‘Say what?’column, featuring imaginary speech bubbles to go along with photos of the day, which is classic Zoo and Private Eye-style.
Yet another sign of mag influence came on page 12, with the 10-question ‘Are you German?’quiz in response to ‘Allo ‘Allo being bought up by German TV. You can guess the jokes.
And if the reader hadn’t had his fill of lists for Monday, then, to celebrate Sharon Stone’s 50th birthday, the Sport picked her ‘5 sexiest moments”, featuring grabs from her most famous sex scenes. Again, this is similar to Zoo’s own ‘Rude archive’features.
So, yes, the Sport is using lads weekly techniques in its editorial – but will it work on a daily product?
My fear is that people tend to read newspapers and magazines for very different reasons.
When I joined Zoo from The Sunday Mirror 14 months ago, I think I may have over-estimated how much readers wanted breaking showbiz scoops in their mag.
That is what they read papers for.
Instead, they wanted a more rounded package of their interests – girls, football, cars, gadgets and, yes, showbiz and entertainment.
In essence, the readers were saying they wanted mags as an addition to their newspaper – not an alternative.
However, by taking the Sport down the lads’ mag route, the fear is it may end up falling between two stalls, satisfying neither newspaper nor mag readers.