Emap has finally launched Heatworld, aka ‘Heat magazine’s website’, just one week after CEO Tom Moloney was ousted having failed to devise / execute a successful digital strategy.

Emap launches Heatworld

Heatworld started off with a slight disappointment – I’d originally registered my interest via the holding page in receiving an email ‘the minute Heatworld is launched’, in order to be one of the first to see it. That didn’t materialise. Ho hum, no biggie.

This morning I visited the website and it is a good-looking effort with some interesting features. Several years too late, certainly, but it should allow Emap to reap some of the benefits of adopting a multichannel strategy with regards to its Heat brand.

Heatworld is billed as a website for ‘Celebrity, Fashion and Entertainment’ and has channels such as TV, Movies, Big Brother, Music and Beauty.

My first reaction is that ‘stories’ are a bit heavy on images and video, and a bit light on text, so it could take a little time to build up visibility in the search engines, although no doubt lots of linklove will materialise in the coming months.

What is interesting is that Emap has opted for a blog look / layout, with content on the left and navigation in two right-aligned sidebars. The new homepages for The Times and The Guardian also use this sort of three(ish)-column layout with the key content on the left, which, as we all know, is where the eye naturally orientates to.

Emap has created a user registration system for Heatworld and visitors are invited to sign up, sign in and start commenting on stories. Smart move, assuming it uses that sort of data to its advantage.

Users can also become ‘Heatworld Hacks’, submitting their own celebrity photos, videos and gossip. This is another neat touch that works well in engendering loyalty while also providing content / scoops, if the hilariously venomous HolyMoly website is anything to go by.

HolyMoly is underpinned by its ‘moles’ who send in rumours, gossip and other underground noises from the murky world of celebrity. It has undergone a recent revamp and continues to pull large amounts of visitors; HolyMoly’s weekly newsletter is distributed to around 200,000 people. Heatworld’s current top ‘story’ (a low-rent video of an infant verbally abusing Peter Andre) is also featured on HolyMoly – the battle for eyeballs in this space is hotting up.

Competition also comes in the form of Hecklerspray, an entertainment news blog that I co-founded a couple of years ago. It too is in the process of a revamp.

Hecklerpray’s traffic continues to wildly surpass expectations – last month it pulled in almost 750,000 unique users. It will be really interesting to see how quickly Emap pulls in these sorts of numbers with Heatworld. Presumably it is only a matter of time. The Heat team should have a fat marketing budget and there will be excellent cross-promotion opportunities with Heat magazine, which circulates to around 500,000 people.

As a heavyweight media owner Emap has this ability to use multiple channels, something that sets it far apart from pureplay startups like HolyMoly and Hecklerspray.

When you remember that print advertising attracts something like 15 times as much ad revenue as the internet (of which 80% is Google / search and classifieds) there’s a massive incentive to retain your print assets, while building loyalty through interaction via the web / digital. Emap has fingers in radio and TV pies too.

Of course with IPTV on the horizon popular websites should be able to migrate audiences into richer environments, becoming media brands, rather than web brands.

But that’s for later, and while Emap has been tardy in rolling out Heatworld, it has a real headstart when it comes to multichannel. And that’s something that should help it add plenty of value to its business over the coming years.