NOT SO SHINING STAR: When circulation figures for the first half of 2005 are all tallied, it looks like a rising tide of celebrity obsession will once again have lifted all boats. Well, almost all boats: While People, Us Weekly and In Touch are posting big gains, Star magazine’s newsstand sales are tracking about 5 percent below last year’s level, according to an estimate supplied by Wenner Media and confirmed by a Star spokesman. That translates to a weekly average of just under 900,000 copies. In Star’s defense, the spokesman pointed out that the magazine increased its cover price by 50 percent last year, to $3.29, and augmented its subscription file by 210 percent, to about 550,000. “To be down 5 percent when we’re making more income is fine,” he added.
But not only is Star failing to attract more newsstand buyers — it’s also failing to draw the younger, more affluent readership the magazine’s glossy makeover was aimed at winning. Figures released this week by Mediamark Research put the median household income of Star’s audience at $45,000 — slightly below last year’s mark, and about $20,000 less than the average income for readers of People, Us and In Touch. Star also has the oldest readers, with a median age of 41.6, versus 40.7 for People, 32.2 for Us and 29.6 for In Touch.
Star’s competitors are all too happy to make the comparisons. “I don’t think flat’s the new up in this category,” remarked Kent Brownridge, vice chairman of Us Weekly parent Wenner Media. Us, he said, is averaging roughly 1 million copies per issue on the newsstand, up 33 percent from last year. In Touch is also hovering around the 1 million mark, with sales up 44 percent versus 2004. And People is on pace to beat its first-half 2004 average of 1.45 million by 7 percent, according to its own estimates. That increase is despite a recent cover price hike, to $3.50 from $3.29. “They’re a phenom,” said Brownridge.
People also demolishes the other celebrity weeklies when it comes to reach. Figures released this week by Mediamark Research put People’s total adult audience at 39.5 million, versus 9 million for Star, 8.6 million for Us Weekly and 3 million for In Touch.
— Jeff Bercovici
This story first appeared in the May 27, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
GO TEAM GO: If Conde Nast, with its cliques and its cafeteria, sometimes seems like the world’s chicest high school, then Tuesday night’s gathering at Alice Tully Hall was the world’s swankest pep rally. The event served as the official in-house introduction to Conde Nast Media Group’s “Point of Passion” ad campaign, which highlights the benefits of magazines as an advertising medium. After Conde Nast president Chuck Townsend made a short introduction, Richard Beckman, head of the Media Group, delivered a multimedia presentation to an audience of 900 sales and marketing staffers from Conde Nast, Fairchild and Golf Digest. (WWD is a unit of Fairchild.) After that came the cocktail hour, with passion fruit margaritas for anyone who was really into the spirit of the evening.
A Conde Nast spokeswoman declined to say how much the affair cost to produce, but a New York event planner estimated the price at around $40,000. Money well spent? Several publishers said they thought it was. “Campaigns like this are very good for the company to show leadership,” said New Yorker publisher David Carey. “People on my team came away feeling fortunate to work at Conde Nast.” Beckman and Townsend seized on the momentum it generated, jetting off to Detroit Thursday to give the presentation to advertisers there.
But even as they’ve been trumpeting the campaign’s virtues, the people in charge of it have been quietly addressing its glaring flaw: the absence of a single African-American model among the several dozen people pictured hugging and nuzzling their magazines. A flight of new, ethnically diverse ads is scheduled to break in July.
DOONAN DANKE: On Tuesday, Linda Wells hosted a private dinner at her home on the Upper East Side in honor of Simon Doonan, whose new memoir “Nasty” was excerpted in the May issue of Allure. The Barneys creative director’s flamboyant mother, Betty, was the focus of the excerpt. Guests at the dinner included Narciso Rodriguez, Polly Mellen — flitting around with more energy than a woman half her age — Jonathan Adler, Amy Fine Collins, Julie Gilhart, Howard Socol, Liz Lange and Freddie Leiba.
Rodriguez, recalling the year he got to know Doonan, said, “Simon planned this big party for me when I went out on my own. There were, like, all these Cuban dancers. It was at the Red Parrot on 57th Street. It was outrageous. It was a blur.”
For the more temperate affair honoring Doonan, Wells — the editor in chief of Allure but at one time the food editor of The New York Times Magazine — gave her caterer, Bryan Calvert, two of her own recipes to use. Wells’ tomato tart — or as she calls it “the reason my husband married me” — and her blackberry cake with creme fraiche bookended the meal.
— S. J.