Smash Hits was a British pop music magazine aimed at teenagers and young adults, that was originally published by EMAP. It ran from 1978 to 2006 and, after initially appearing monthly, was issued fortnightly during most of that time. The name survived as a brand for a spin-off digital television channel -now named Box Hits – and website. A digital radio station was also available but shut on 5 August 2013.
Smash Hits featured songwords of latest hits and interviews with all the big names in music. It was initially published monthly, then went fortnightly. The style of the magazine was one of irreverence. Its interviewing technique was novel at the time and, rather than looking up to the big names, it often made fun of them, asking strange questions rather than talking about their music.
Created by journalist Nick Logan, the title was launched in 1978 and appeared monthly for its first few months, . He based the idea on a songwords magazine that his sister used to buy, but which was of poor quality. His idea being to launch a glossy-looking magazine which also contained songwords as its mainstay. The publisher was Emap, which was a small-time publisher based in Peterborough and the magazine was originally titled Disco Fever, before they settled on Smash Hits.
Smash Hits launched the career of many journalists including Radio Times editor Mark Frith. Other well-known writers have included Dave Rimmer, , Mark Ellen (who went on to launch Q, Mojo and Word), Steve Beebee, , Chris Heath, , , , Tom Hibbert, and Miranda Sawyer. Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys also worked as a writer and assistant editor, and once claimed that had he not become a pop star, he would likely have pursued his ambition to become editor.
The magazine was also available in Continental Europe, especially in Germany where the issues could be bought at train stations or airports, whilst the title was licensed for a French version in the 1990s. There were other licensed versions in the magazine’s history. In 1984, an Australian version was created and proved just as successful for that new market as the original had back in Britain, whilst in the United States, a version was published during the 1980s under the title Star Hits, drawing articles from the British version.
It was published by Emap, who also use the name for one of their digital television services, and for a digital radio station. The brand also covered the annual Smash Hits Poll Winners Party, an awards ceremony voted for by readers of the magazine.
The magazine’s sales peaked during the late 1980s. In the early part of the decade it was regularly selling 500,000 copies per issue, which had risen to over one million by 1989. Sales began to drop during the 1990s and by 1996 it was reported that sales were dropping roughly 100,000 per year, currently standing at 245,000. By the time of its demise, it was down to 120,000.
In the 1990s, the magazine’s circulation slumped and it was overtaken by the BBC‘s spin off magazine Top of the Pops. Emap‘s other biweekly teen magazine of the period (which featured more celebrities and stars of TV series including Australians based Home and Away and United States imported Beverly Hills, 90210) was closed and this celeb focus was shifted over to Smash Hits, which became less focused on teen pop and more of an entertainment magazine.
The magazine also shifted size a number of times in subsequent relaunches including one format that was as big as an album with songwords to be clipped out on the card cover. Television presenter and journalist Kate Thornton was editor for a short time.
The Australian edition of Smash Hits magazine began in November 1984 as a fortnightly edited by James Manning. The magazine blended some content from the parent publication with locally generated material. Eddy Sarafian, who was later to edit the successful competitor TV Hits for Attic Futura Publications, was also on staff at the time the magazine was founded. Robyn Doreian, later editor of Attic Futura’s Hot Metal was graphic designer for Smash Hits and in the early 1990s Lisa Anthony, formerly editor of Attic Futura’s Hit Songwords, would become Smash Hits’ editor for a brief period. Australian Smash Hits was originally published by Fairfax Magazines and was later purchased by Mason Stewart Publications. Over the years it became a monthly and then a bi-monthly. In 2007 the magazine retailed for A$5.95 Inc. GST and NZ$6.50. On 30 March 2007 it was announced that the Australian edition would cease publication due to low readership. The editor at that time was Emma Bradshaw. The issue that was scheduled to be released on 9 May 2007 was cancelled.