FALLING STAR: What if you hired Bonnie Fuller to take over your ailing tabloid empire and the newsstand didn’t go up? Well, that may be what’s happening.

In the 10 weeks Fuller has been at American Media top editing the Star (the company has said she will move to the National Enquirer and the Globe once the Star has been turned around), the magazine has been selling what several sources in the publishing industry — including two from competing publications who have seen scan data — say is a figure around 910,000 (while such data can be preliminary, in the case of the tabloids and weeklies selling at supermarkets, it tends to be more accurate). On a year-to-year basis, that’s a whopping drop of about 240,000 copies from last year’s second-half average of 1.15 million, though most industry experts agree a more apt measure would be to look at the last eight weeks compared with the first half of this year, in which case the drop would be more moderate, at about 110,000. So what is the problem?

This story first appeared in the September 9, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Well, it’s threefold. In the 15 years Bonnie Fuller has been in the U.S., she’s presided over six magazines, all of which had dramatic gains on newsstand because she took them downscale. At her Marie Claire, Cosmo and Glamour, you had lubricous celebs in slinky dresses accompanied by coverlines about how to have 15 orgasms in 15 minutes. At Us Weekly, instead of how to have better sex, the coverlines teased about the sex celebrities were already having (which — naturally — was better than yours).

Now she is at the Star, trying to boost the newsstand by taking it upscale, while competing with a newsstand phenomenon she created (Us) and another celebrity weekly (In Touch), which has been holding its own. At Us, Fuller also was aided by a predecessor, Terry McDonell, seemingly couldn’t have done a much worse job, and a company, Wenner Media, which bought scores of extra pockets at the newsstand when she arrived to help boost the sale. But the Star’s parent, American Media, owns more newsstand pockets than anyone, providing an inbuilt advantage for Fuller. Making matters worse, her biggest sale at the Star so far has been a cover of an overwrought Kobe Bryant and his wife with a headline that said “Cheaters” in bold letters, adding credence to the fact that you don’t get your biggest sales by going upmarket.

“What it tells me is that you have to know who your readers are,” said Wenner Media general manager Kent Brownridge.

An American Media spokesman said, “We all know how popular and successful she is and I find it flattering that they’re taking her temperature after six weeks on the job. That Angelina Jolie issue [from two weeks ago] sold over a million.” Fuller could not be reached for comment. — Jacob Bernstein

STALKING GAWKER: Envy Elizabeth Spiers, who appears to have turned her ability to spout bitchy, witty takedowns of trucker hats and Soho House into a plum job. She just doesn’t seem to know it yet.

Spiers, the editor of the trendy media blog, Gawker, is “on vacation” in the offices of New York magazine, where she’ll be cowriting the Intelligencer column with Deborah Schoeneman for the near future. Spiers insisted she’s still technically a Gawker employee, but publisher Nick Denton has already filled her job and a New York spokeswoman expects Spiers to be working there for quite a while. A permanent job at New York would be a huge coup for Spiers, whom Denton plucked from obscurity to be editor when he launched the site last winter and who would be the first blogger to land a high-profile media gig on the merits of her musings.

New editor Choire Sicha was originally brought on board to run Denton’s upcoming upscale porn site, “Fleshbot,” which will likely have as many socially redeeming qualities as his next project: Gawker L.A. — Greg Lindsay

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