Are celebrity mags losing their clout? It depends who you ask,. Or listen to. One of the industry’s most respected publications Media Week believes that America’s love affair with celebrity weeklies may be going the way of Christie Brinkley’s marriage and Mel Gibson’s image.
Yet the very day after that prediction was made it was announced that Disney was selling off its stake in US Weekly – for a whopping profit. Back in 2001 Disney bought a 50 per cent interest in US for around $40 million.
That was shortly after the magazine went weekly. Now Disney is selling that half share for $300 million. That, if anything, should discount the pessimists. Jan Wenner, who publishes US, was happy it’s said to have the half-share back. After all for the first time US, in the first half of this year, averaged over a million copies on the newsstands.
So why the pessimism? According to Mediaweek, citing the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, sales of the celeb mags in general are leveling off. News- stand sales are particularly tepid. It’s one reason why such newcomers as Celebrity Living, Gemstar-TV Guide, Inside TV and even Time Inc’s Teen People have lately bitten the dust. “The celebrity category is cooling” one veteran of the industry, Jane Deery, of PGR Media, predicted.
Yet paid circulation for People magazine has grown to 3,800,000 – largely helped by a jump of three percent in news-stand sales, Of course the 2,200,000 copies of the issue featuring Brangeliina’s Baby – its biggest issue since the 4,000,000 it sold after the World Trade Centre disaster – helped a lot.
Michelle Myers, a senior v-p at The Star, blamed a 14 per cent drop in news-stand sales to a 20 cent hike in the cover price back in July last year. Compensated nevertheless by a big jump in subscription sales – which are almost invariably cheaper than news-stand copies.. She said: “I think there is saturation, but saturation is different from not being hot anymore” At the same time, though, Bob Davidowitz, of Bauer , which publishes In Touch, acknowledges a “flattening out “ of the category. But he attributed slower sales to a dearth of “earth shattering” celebrity news this year. What he means by “earth shattering” he didn’t say.
How is all this affecting OK!, the new import from Britain launched a year ago? A spokesman for Northern and Shell claimed that since the cover price was lowered back in February from $3.29 to $l,99 the magazine has averaged 650,000 copies an issue . The magazine’s first official circulation figures are due out later this month.