Are celebrity baby pictures worth millions?

The millions of dollars that American celebrity mags are reputedly paying for stars’ wedding and baby pictures are only marginally beneficial, the New York Times suggests today.

Once considered ethically questionable, paying a fortune for a celebrity’s family snaps has now become fairly routine among US celebrity weeklies, particularly Time Inc’s People and the US version of Northern & Shell’s OK!.

Newsstand sales of a magazine with a an exclusive cover can increase sales but rarely enough to justify a payment of $1 million (£500,000) or more. Even at full price, each additional copy generates less than $2 (£1) in extra income.

The record probably belongs to the issue of People that featured pictures of Angela Jolie and Brad Pitt’s baby Shiloh which sold, it’s said, 800,000 copies more than usual. The parents reputedly gave the $1 million dollars they were reported to have received to a charity.

By comparison Christina Aguilera and her new baby on the cover of an issue in February did not do much for People’s sales.

“It’s always a bit of a gamble” Sarah Evans, editor of the American version of OK!, admitted to the New York Times.

Mostly a big exclusive sells an extra 300,000 to 500,000 copies – producing less than an extra $1 million in revenue. But they can boost website traffic. The Lopez twins attract about 4 million viewers in a single day to People.com.

But that’s just in the United States – there is also the question of international rights.

Northern & Shell’s OK! has more than a dozen foreign versions around the world including the UK version. It was this foreign readership that supposedly spurred the company to pay a reported $2 million for exclusive pictures of the wedding of “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria and Tony Parker.

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