People hopes for 5m sales thanks to Brad, Angelina and Shiloh

Did the
pre-publication on the web – some would call it piracy – of the
pictures of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s baby Shiloh, help the sales
of People and Hello!, who reputedly paid in excess of $7 million for
the exclusive rights?

It
has certainly provoked debate. Larry Hackett, managing director of
People, admitted he was furious when he first heard that the pictures
were running on web sites, about a dozen altogether, before the
magazine had even a chance to hit the stands.

‘As
the guy who went through all the efforts to get these pictures, my
initial reaction was anger.’he told the NY Times. (He also insisted
the widely quoted figure paid by People was inaccurate – but declined
to reveal the real figures). Supposedly most of the pictures on the web
came from a bootleg copy of Hello. It was even possible in some case to
see the creases in the pages that were obviously photocopied. Others
came from purloined copies of People. Some of the web sites – faced
with the threat of legal action – withdrew their pictures. But did the
pre-publications of the pictures really do any harm? Or did they drum
up interest in the pictures – and perhaps help sales.

It
wasn’t just web sites that ran the pictures. The NY Post and its big
rival the NY Daily News also front-paged the pictures, albeit giving
credit to People and Hello! magazines. As one circulation expert Martin
Walker of Walker Communications put it: ‘It just creates more buzz,
more noise, so people will buy the magazine”. Even People’s managing
editor ultimately conceded the publicity might help – especially as the
magazine was upping its cover price by 50 cents a copy. Normally People
sells 3,700,000 copies This week it hopes it even hit 5,000,000. Even
if many people have seen the grainy pictures on their web sites. It’s a
sentiment shared by Prof Samir Husini, a teacher of journalism at the
University of Mississippi, and know in the US as ‘Mr Magazine’. ‘The
blogs are merely whetting the appetite of the public. They want to see
the real thing. To these people its not real unless it is in their
hands, on their laps, in their bath tubs’

And
what are the magazines that lost out on the bidding running this week?
US Weekly ran some nuggets about Britney Spears and Kevin Federline,
while Star Weekly ran what it claimed were exclusive pictures of Demi
Moore and husband Ashton Kutcher – and of course that other big story
of the week the divorce of Paul and Heather McCartney.

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