EXCLUSIVE! TROUBLE AT TABLOIDS: Just weeks after David Pecker’s American Media laid off almost 6 percent of its workforce, there’s more turmoil at its beleaguered tabloid division.

Here are the latest changes: The company’s general manager, Larry Bornstein, has quietly left the building and, to offset mounting circulation losses, AMI will institute another price increase at the National Enquirer, the Globe and possibly Star Magazine on or before Dec. 1. Such increases have, over the last five years, been a way for Pecker to pump up AMI’s circulation revenues. But sources mumble that revenues are beginning to drop for the first time as a result of the last rise, to $2.19 from $2.09, as well as competition from In Touch, which is glossy and sells for $1.99.

This story first appeared in the October 3, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Until this summer, top editors at all of American Media’s tabloids were provided with company scan data on each of their in-house siblings. But a few weeks ago, that stopped, because of what one source said was an effort to keep employees from leaking out negative circulation info about their sister publications at a time when the company is trying to boost its profile.

Meanwhile, frustration at the company is mounting over Pecker’s star treatment of Bonnie Fuller, whose newsstand numbers so far have been tracking downward. In her three months since defecting to AMI from Us Weekly, the veteran women’s editor has spent close to $1 million hiring gossip columnists — among them the New York Post’s Jared Paul Stern, USA Today’s Jeannie Williams, and Us Weekly’s Michael Lewittes, who is sitting tight at an AMI car title until his non-compete clause with Wenner Media abates. But the tabloids typically sell on newsstands on the strength of reporters who dig through trash cans like starving raccoons, and almost none of her current staff has those “sorts” of nocturnal habits.

It’s a problem. Last week, large portions of Fuller’s cover package on J.Lo and Ben had to be delivered by the far more experienced reporting staff at the Enquirer, according to sources. But the synergy doesn’t appear to cut both ways. The sources said that, while Star’s photo budgets are ballooning, the other titles are having to be more fiscally conservative. And then there’s the question of why Fuller’s title as executive vice president and chief editorial director runs on the Star masthead but not on the Enquirer’s or the Globe’s.

“The tabloids had her name on the mastheads on page proofs and she demanded that they be taken off because she didn’t want to be identified with them,” said one source.

Reached for comment, an AMI spokesman denied and downplayed almost all the changes, saying that the general manager position was moved to New York from Boca Raton and Bornstein didn’t want to move in; that the price increase on the tabloids was occurring but had been scheduled months ago, that sales estimates were no longer shared between titles but that “actual” numbers later were, that reports Fuller is embarrassed by the company’s other tabloids are absolutely untrue and that there was no input from Enquirer reporters on last week’s Star package except that they share certain photographers. — Jacob Bernstein

RETRO-SEXUALS: While the project on Time Inc.’s front burner is a women’s service mag, Mark Golin is back in the magazine lab too. His last project — a translation of the British lad book, Loaded — languished, and this time he’s trading in plasticized babes for plastic cases. When he’s not spending time on his main job at Time Inc. Interactive, Golin is working on a shopping magazine for men that’s in the early stages of development, said several sources close to the company. One thing that’s apparently certain is it will emphasize gadgets, games and the like over clothes, unlike certain launches from WWD’s sibling, Details, with Vitals or the upcoming Condé Nast title. “I don’t think he’s trying to go head-to-head with Cargo and make a men’s Lucky,” said one source. “He’s trying something with a little more reach and that takes a broader view than traditional gear magazines.”

Of course, traditionally, those magazines have broadened their view to include the cleavage of the aforementioned babes. Bob Guccione Jr.’s Gear had many more spreads of models than machinery before going kaput this spring, and while Dennis Publishing’s Stuff is still very much about stuff in its U.K. version, the U.S. one quickly embraced the über lad babes road under former editor Greg Gutfeld. — Greg Lindsay

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus