American Pie 11.07.03

The Star, the supermarket weekly Rupert Murdoch launched when he first arrived in the US, is to be turned into a super-glossy celebrity magazine. That’s the first assignment for Bonnie Fuller, the celebrity-oriented editor lured away from Us Magazine to be editorial director of all of American Media’s publications. David Pecker, head of the company, has plans to revamp all the tabloids, from The National Enquirer to Weekly World News. The Enquirer will concentrate on hard, but sensational news, especially investigative stories, The Globe will be the gossip tab, and Weekly World News will continue to run the weird and wacky. All this in the hope of overcoming the sales decline in recent years. In the first six months of this year, they dropped 14 per cent – which translates into $1m (£600,000) a week in lost revenue. In another attempt to raise income, American Media – which owns about two-thirds of the magazine racks in supermarkets – is trying to squeeze even more into the check-out lines. In the small space that separates such pocket-sized magazines as TV Guide and Reader’s Digest, there are now new tiny racks selling mini-mags about losing weight or finding happiness. One indication of how Pecker is legitimising the tabloids is the decline in lawsuits. At one time there used to be as many as 50 outstanding against them; now there are just one or two.

Embedding journalists with military units is likely to continue. Although some journalists returning from Iraq didn’t think the idea was so great (a lot depended on the unit to which they were assigned), the Pentagon thought it was a success and wants the practice continued and used in any future conflicts. In the Pentagon’s view, it cut down on a lot of “second-guessing” by stay-at-home pundits. About 700 journalists were “embedded” in Iraq. The Defense Department believes in any future conflict they could handle even more, with many more from countries other than the US.

Publishers here are puzzling over some new trends. Health and fitness magazines are doing well in both sales and advertising. Ads in Shape are up 44 per cent, in Weight Watchers 36 per cent and Remedy Magazine 35 per cent, and Men’s Health is up 28 per cent. All this points to an increased interest in being healthy, wealthy and wise. At the same time, mags for teenage girls are losing their sizzle. The circulation of Teen People, once the hottest of the youth mags, has fallen from a peak of 1.6 million. Seventeen, once the leader of the pack, is also suffering a decline – recently it was bought by Hearst for $182m (£109m), significantly less than the $200m that was being asked. The only title doing well is CosmoGIRL!, which has increased its sales and subscriptions by 20 per cent since January. Others, such as Elle Girl and Teen Vogue, plan to increase their frequency in the hope of overcoming the trend.

It used to be called the Silly Season. Now it’s the Season of the Lists. Whenever there is a shortage of ideas or news is scarce, editors here almost automatically turn to The List. This year the idea has run amok. Spotted on the news-stands this month: The Eight Hottest Moments a Couple Can Have (Glamour), 378 Celeb Shockers (Jane), New York’s Best Doctors (New York Magazine), and The 45 Best Bars (Men’s Journal). And the lists are getting longer. Harper’s Bazaar blurbs 685 New Looks, Marie Claire has 725 Sexy Fashion Finds and Lucky, a magazine for shoppers, tops them all with 5,279 Gifts and Prizes. Maybe the next step will be the 100 Dumbest Lists Ever Compiled.

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