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Celebrity Worshipping

By Kelly Anderson

A new celebrity magazine has recently joined the racks alongside US Weekly, People and In Touch.
Although Canada already has entertainment magazines like Inside Entertainment, Weekly Scoop is the first of the supermarket tabloid genre, which launched on October 3, 2005. 

A product of Torstar, Weekly Scoop is a venture into one of the fastest growing genres of the magazine industry. 

Torstar is the multi-billion dollar Ontario-based communications giant which owns the Toronto Star, Harlequin Romance book publishing, a collection of southern Ontario dailies, Metroland, the publisher of literally dozens of GTA and area weeklies as well as the commuter standby, the Metro.

“Celebrity and scientific magazines are the two fastest growing segments.  Clearly Torstar wanted to tap into a potentially lucrative market,” said Alison Eastwood, managing editor of Weekly Scoop. 
The freshman magazine covers celebrity happenings across the border,  as well as across the globe.
“We try to strike a good balance between Hollywood and our own doorstep,” said Eastwood.

The surge of filming in Canadian locations like Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary has given the magazine plenty of opportunity to catch actors north of the border. 

However, success stories of Canadians get the special treatment from Weekly Scoop.
 “We reflect our readers’ patriotic pride in home-grown stars like Jim Carrey, Kiefer Sutherland, Avril Lavigne,” said Eastwood. 

Aimed at a female demographic of 18 to 49 year olds, Weekly Scoop appeals to them with juicy gossip and celebrity fashion and beauty.  Weekly Scoop offers up clothing and beauty products that can help you replicate your favourite star.

Dying to know where Mary Kate Olsen bought her shoes?  Do you have to know where you can get your hands on Nicole Richie’s Balenciaga bag?  Weekly Scoop will tell you which Canadian stores carry the coveted items, and how much it costs in Canadian dollars.

Although the coverage of the magazine strives to represent Canada best, it does not set a quota of Canadian-related articles for each issue.

“We don’t divide it up percentage wise, we like our Canadian content to be organic, rather than forced,” said Eastwood. 

The formula or lack thereof, seems to be working for them.  According to Eastwood, the magazine is going to increase its distribution from 130,000 a week to 150,000 across the country. 
The audience is as varied as could be.  “The readers are from all walks of life, from checkout girls to MBA students,” Eastwood said happily. 

 “We get most of our letters from people in remote regions who just devour our content.  It’s escapism, right? So I think if you’re removed from that in your day to day life, you’re even more likely to embrace it.”

The magazine goes beyond mixing the Canadian content with the international. 

Eastwood points out that Weekly Scoop differs from most other Canadian magazines because not many are published weekly.  “There is us and Maclean’s.  Maclean’s is a very different animal,” she noted. 
As for the competition from the Americans, Weekly Scoop  says it has important differences. Weekly Scoop mainly approaches the topic of celebrity with a sense of humour, while also making a conscious effort to never put people on a pedestal.

“We try to treat them and write about them as though they’re human, with foibles that we occasionally make fun of,” said Eastwood.

There is a serious side to the differences between the American publications and the Canadian. 
Canadians have to be more careful about publishing a false statement than Americans because of the difference in libel laws from country to country.

In the United States, journalists have more leeway in dealing with celebrities and other public figures, whereas in Canada everything published must be backed by facts. 

 “So we like to think we’re more truthful than our U.S. counterparts, as well as sassier,” Eastwood said. 
That sassiness comes from a group of individuals who bring a lot of different things to the table.
 Those who share the masthead at Weekly Scoop were once part of organizations such as the New York Post, the Toronto Sun, Flare magazine, In Touch and business magazines, just to name a few.
This collective has varied backgrounds, but also produces the magazine with a much smaller staff than other magazines. 

“We are doing the same as our competitors with far fewer resources.  We have about 20 creative staff; that’s editorial, photography and art.  In Touch has about 60 and People magazine has about 350,” said Eastwood.

She was also quick to credit the freelancers and insiders they count on in L.A., New York and across Canada.

Soon the market will have yet another Canadian celebrity magazine courtesy of the Rogers Corporation.  But instead of riding too closely on Weekly Scoop’s coattails, Rogers is planning on bringing a Canadian version of Hello! Magazine to the table.

“A lot of celebrities do exclusives with Hello! As well the editorial’s done in more of a positive fashion in regards to how they cover celebrities,” said Hello! Magazine’s publisher, Shelley Middlebrook. 
The Spanish version Hola! spawned the British Hello! as well as other versions in Greece, Turkey, Russia and the Middle East. 

Christopher Loudon will be the editor for the upscale magazine that covers international and local celebrities.

“Our approach would probably be high end than say the gossipy thing,” said Middlebrook. “I think we’ll probably skew a touch older than (Weekly) Scoop and probably more urban, more upscale in regards to people with more money … probably a little higher end.”

“I think it appeals to a different demographic than we do,” said a non-plussed Eastwood, who also pointed out that “we’re Canadian and they’re really just going to be repackaging a European magazine.”
“It’s not as gossipy,” said Middlebrook. “Like ‘Are Tom and Katie breaking up?’ That’s just a rumour or a headline but that wouldn’t be our approach.”

Weekly Scoop is a format that is a curiously popular one, and it provides a different kind of journalistic experience for Eastwood, who came in with previous experience at four business magazines.

 “It’s very interesting to be producing articles about people who, for the most part, won’t speak to you.”
Until August 24 when Hello! debuts, Weekly Scoop has the market on Canadian supermarket tabloid magazines, giving our country a uniquely Canadian version of the genre.