ALL BONNIE, ALL THE TIME: As Star Magazine gears up for a page increase — to 84 from 60 pages of editorial — the pressure is mounting on editorial director Bonnie Fuller to get the copy in on time. In the latest developments, her staff has been told the majority of pages will be closing every week on Fridays and that the last pages have to be in by 4 p.m. on Mondays.
“That’ll happen,” one former Fuller colleague said sarcastically when informed of the changes.
This story first appeared in the October 14, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Actually, it might.
In order to make deadlines, the staff was dragged into the office on Columbus Day at 7 a.m., while the art and photo departments are now being instructed to put at least one person on duty on Sunday evenings every week.
But while deadlines might prove easier to meet, readers are still hard to come by.
In a midyear update sent last week to all American Media employees, chief executive David Pecker seemed to admit what industry insiders have been saying for weeks: For the first time in Fuller’s career, the newsstand has not gone up.
Naturally he tried to spin it as a positive: Flat is the new up!
“Despite radically redesigning and repositioning the magazine for the future, she [Fuller] has kept current Star sales virtually flat to previous issues,” Pecker writes. “This means she has made these changes without losing any older readers, which is quite an amazing accomplishment.”
(Readers’ Note: “virtually flat” is ceo speak for down less than 5 percent; “radical repositioning for the future” means trying to achieve more buzz at a much higher cost, a.k.a. long-term growth strategy).
And anyway, he adds, “Bonnie’s ongoing TV appearances [she averages two a week] and the enormous press coverage she generates are invaluable not only to Star but to AMI as a company.”
There are other puzzling things in the memo: for one, the four paragraphs he spends discussing Fuller’s achievements make no mention of her working at any other title besides Star, and Pecker goes out of his way to praise National Enquirer editor David Perel, whose title has waged a fierce battle against a deteriorating newsstand market with big news exclusives on Rush Limbaugh and the Laci Peterson case. That has furthered speculation that Fuller may not be on track to go rejig the Enquirer when she’s done at Star.
But there are some encouraging signs: Fuller has, according to sources, provided helpful coverline advice on some of AMI’s Weider titles. And the last few weeks at Star have been marginally better. One cover story on Ben and J.Lo was a big hit, and a cover of Meg Ryan with the headline, “Drastic Plastic Surgery!” broke the one-million barrier. But sales hit the skids again with this week’s issue, and the Meg Ryan cover was a further indication that the title’s best results come when it takes a nasty tabloid approach.
In a phone call late last week, Pecker downplayed speculation that the magazine’s subject matter and presentation would alienate media buyers who purchase ads.
“People had a tremendous sale with Nips and Tucks, and In Touch and Us Weekly have both done stories on plastic surgery makeovers,” he said. “I think that the whole genre looks at the same stories and has the same interests. I don’t believe that if we take one angle and they take another it’ll turn off advertisers.”
— Jacob Bernstein
MOVING OVER: The New York Times is interviewing candidates to be the next style editor of the Times Magazine. Amy Spindler, who is recovering from an illness with extremely positive results, will move into a role as a cultural critic when she returns to the paper.
The three leading contenders are said to be Esquire fashion creative director Stefano Tonchi, Vogue fashion news/features director Sally Singer and Time Inc.’s Kate Betts. According to sources familiar with the situation, all three have had conversations with Times assistant managing editor Adam Moss about the job and an announcement should come in the next few weeks. — J.B.