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Celebrity Mags: At Long Last, The Backlash?

Posted by: Jon Fine on November 15, 2005

TV Guide’s celeb-weekly offshoot Inside TV, which launched in April, was put out of its misery today.

At long last, the air is going out of this bubble. In 1999, the following weekly magazines had a heavy celebrity component: People, National Enquirer, and The Star.

In 2005, the following weekly magazines have a heavy celebrity component: People, National Enquirer, The Star, Us Weekly, In Touch, Life & Style Weekly, OK!, Celebrity Living, and, until today, Inside TV. (I have the distinct feeling I’m forgetting one. Maybe more.)

The smash successes of Us Weekly—and then In Touch, and then Life & Style Weekly—inspired new heights of me-too-isms in a medium already prone to it. Simply put: These mags sold in gargantuan volumes amid a magazine industry that had a very difficult time selling magazines at all. Heavy newsstand sales made for serious cash flow—a relief, given that advertisers were getting stingier and stinger.

At one point Us Weekly publisher Wenner Media considered another entry into the market, but they’ve apparently pulled the plug on this idea. (In retrospect, that move should have been taken as a leading indicator.)

The total volume of celebrity mags sold now remains a serious multiple of what it was in the pre-Us Weekly days of 1999. Today’s news, though, indicates the sector may have peaked.

Inside TV also made news for being the first major consumer magazine to blatantly sell product placement in articles and editorial (e.g: an advertiser could pay for inclusion in a layout of “editor’s picks” of beauty products). Guess that didn’t work out too well either!



The media world continues to shapeshift as new forms arise and old assumptions erode. On this blog, Bloomberg Businessweek will provide sharp analysis and timely reports on the transformation of this constantly changing terrain.



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