Tabloid queen Bonnie Fuller, who four years ago led the makeover of American Media Inc.’s Star, is stepping down as AMI’s executive vp, chief editorial director, the company announced.
She’ll serve as editor at large of AMI’s Star magazine and consult to the company, which called her departure a resignation.
“Bonnie Fuller has been an important part of a team that has overseen a range of extremely successful editorial initiatives over the past five years,” David Pecker, chairman and CEO, AMI, said in a statement. “I am pleased that we will continue to benefit from her journalistic contributions through her role as editor-at-large at Star and a consultant to the company.”
Fuller’s exit comes before her contract was set to expire in March 2009.
“It was my decision,” Fuller said in an interview of her leaving. “I felt like my mission was accomplished. The primary reason was to take Star from a tabloid to a glossy, and that has worked out to be a tremendous success. We did something a lot of people said couldn’t be done.”
Fuller added that she recently finished redesigning three other AMI titles–Fit Pregnancy, Country Weekly and Men’s Fitness–and that she was looking forward to new ventures, which she didn’t specify.
Hired by Pecker in 2003, Fuller shepherded Star’s $20 million, upscale transformation from a tabloid to a glossy celebrity weekly. The revamp involved upgrading the tabloid to a glossy paper stock, launching a major ad campaign, raising the cover price to $3.29 from $2.99 and hiring ex-Details editor Joe Dolce. (Dolce was replaced in February 2007 by Candace Trunzo, who came over from AMI’s National Enquirer.)
Fuller jumped to AMI from Jann Wenner’s Wenner Media, where was credited with revitalizing Us Weekly almost overnight with a deft combination of catchy covers and winning combination of celebrity, style and entertainment news. In the first six-month Audit Bureau of Circulations reporting period after she joined Us in March 2002, the weekly’s circ jumped 18.5 percent to 1.1 million, with single copy sales soaring 55.2 percent, per ABC.
The longtime editor previously edited women’s monthlies Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Glamour.
Some advertisers initially warmed to Star’s glossier remake, and this year through May 12, ad pages rose 4.2 percent to 471, per the Mediaweek Monitor.
But Star has shown signs of strain lately. Last year, AMI let go a dozen staffers there while reporting that Star contributed to financial losses at the company. At the same time, Star has faced growing print competition from new players like Bauer Publishing’s In Touch and Life & Style and Northern & Shell’s OK!
In the past year, the category has shown signs of peaking, with Star cutting its rate base to 1.35 million from 1.5 million and the Bauer titles slashing their rate bases while increasing their cover price. While still a major player in terms of circ, Star now trails the 1.93-million circ Us Weekly and 3.62-milion circ People.
In the eyes of some industry observers, the magazine has shown signs of returning to its pre-makeover days, pointing to more sensational coverage in recent months.
Fuller disputed that characterization. “I think Star’s in excellent shape. The newsstand is very strong, very stable; some of our competitors have had dips. I feel Star has broken a tremendous amount of great stories. When you’re breaking news and news that is true, I’m not sure why you would use that word.”