CELEBRITY SLOWDOWN: The holiday season is turning out to be not so jolly for the celebrity weeklies. Newsstand sales of People, Us Weekly, In Touch and Star all are down in the fourth quarter from their previous year-to-date average, according to several industry sources. Us has seen the steepest drop-off, with fourth-quarter sales running about 15 percent below its January-through-September average. People is down about 9 percent; Star, 8 percent, and In Touch, 5 percent, said sources. (People, Us and In Touch are all on pace to report a year-over-year increase for the second half as a whole, however; Star will be slightly down.)

It’s not unusual for magazines sold at checkout to experience a slowdown toward the end of the year, as holiday merchandise takes over front-end retail space. But category insiders see additional factors at work here, including overcrowding (three new magazines have entered the field in the past 13 months) and reader fatigue. Then there is the element of luck: While the first half of 2005 delivered up the Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston-Angelina Jolie love triangle, the second half has failed to yield a comparable bonanza. Of the new magazines, only Life & Style has climbed past the half-million mark. OK has claimed newsstand sales of 250,000 to 275,000, but a competing publisher’s estimates put its average through October at less than 150,000.

Perhaps in an attempt to break out of the Jen-Brad-Nick-Jessica-Britney-Kevin rut, Us put Julia Roberts on its Nov. 21 issue. But the gamble, which sources said was done at the urging of owner Jann Wenner, didn’t pay off: The issue only sold around 800,000 copies, making it one of Us’ weakest of the year.

Executives from the magazines declined to comment.
— Jeff Bercovici

SAVED SEAT: David Rock‘s quixotic campaign to take over Peter Armour‘s seat on the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ board has come up short. At ABC’s annual meeting, held in New York Monday, Armour, senior vice president of consumer marketing affairs at Condé Nast Publications (parent of WWD), defeated Rock, director of online and partnerships at Ziff Davis, in board elections, securing another two-year term. (The meeting was supposed to take place last month in Miami, but Hurricane Wilma forced a change in venue.)

This story first appeared in the December 13, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The outcome was not exactly a surprise; sitting board members virtually never are challenged for reelection. But Rock had argued that dissatisfaction over the circulation-reporting controversies of the past two years would breed an appetite for change. “My primary objective in this election was to have a positive impact on our industry — hopefully, I’ve done that,” he said after the election. “Peter is a wonderful representative for our industry.”
— J.B.

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