Celeb Weeklies Taking a Beating

Circulation numbers dropped drastically since 2008

It's no secret that celebrity weeklies have taken a heavy beating in the past few years. According to Women’s Wear Daily, while a weekly circulation of 500,000 copies would have been considered a “disaster” four or five years ago, that number now represents a hit for celeb magazines, with the exception of People. “If someone had told [former US Weekly editor] Janice Min . . . that selling 600,000 copies was a success, she would have said you’re a crazy person,” said a WWD source.

And considering current performances, 600,000 copies would be a reach. Last week, OK! magazine sold about 255,000 issues. According to sources, the magazine, which has dropped 43 percent on the newsstand since 2008, averaged a meager 270,000 copies over the past seven weeks.

Meanwhile, Life & Style, which sold an average of 334,700 copies each week in the first half of 2011, is down 36 percent on the newsstand in the past three years, while sister publication In Touch has fallen 29 percent during the same period. Wenner Media’s Us Weekly is also down 24 percent on the newsstand over the last three years, according to WWD.

Compared to the competition, People is doing fairly well. This year, it sold 2 million copies of its Royal Wedding issue and 1.5 million copies of Kim Kardashian’s wedding album—but newsstand sales are still down 24 percent since 2008, dropping below 800,000 copies some weeks.

As a result, many weeklies are being forced to cut trim size, print fewer pages per issue, and boost photo output while laying off reporters. They’re also losing critical ad revenue. As one source told WWD, “These magazines don’t have premium advertising to lean on . . . I don’t know how they are making money.”

In order to stay alive, some of these titles are adopting new measures to cut costs and reel in readers. People has been sneaking in price hikes week to week, while also luring customers with $1 off coupons on its site. And OK! magazine, according to its editor Richard Spencer, has been cutting expenses by hiring people who can both write and edit stories and having AMI handle back-office operations.

But for titles like Life & Style and In Touch that rely heavily on newsstand sales, simply cutting back may not be enough. “At some point, if I’m on the media buying side, you’re asking why I need Life & Style,” CircMatters publisher Jack Hanrahan told WWD. “It has shrunk so far that it’s unlikely it’s adding much reach to a media schedule. I’m not sure [Life & Style and In Touch] can continue given current trends.”