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ONE HEFTY PAYCHECK: Take that, Bonnie Fuller. If Us Weekly hits all its targets for circulation and advertising, then Janice Min could become the highest-paid editor in the celebrity weekly category thanks to her new two-year contract. The deal, according to the New York Post on Thursday, includes a $1.5 million base salary; a guaranteed circulation bonus of $500,000, and additional bonuses totaling $500,000 — potentially earning Min more than her predecessor Fuller, who decamped from Us Weekly parent Wenner Media to American Media Inc. (Fuller’s contract with AMI earns her $1.5 million a year, plus a guaranteed $500,000 bonus.)
But Min’s new contract left many media observers wondering whether she’s worth the price. She is — at least based on her past performance at the magazine. Since she took the helm in 2003, Us Weekly’s circulation has swelled to 1.8 million from 1.2 million. Newsstands sales have grown from 500,000 a week to about 1 million single copies, according to numbers by the Audit Bureau of Circulation. Year-to-date, ad pages for Us Weekly have grown 6.3 percent, to 1,153 pages. Meanwhile, Us Weekly and Min have earned spots in just about every industry trade magazine listing the best, hottest or brightest magazines and their editors.
That’s all in the past, however. Naysayers say the magazine’s newsstand growth isn’t what it once was. Recent figures have its newsstand sales fluctuating between 800,000 and more than 1 million copies a week, according to several sources with access to scan data, while its average year-to-date is flat with 2006. (Us Weekly would not comment on its newsstand numbers before their release by ABC.) “We’ve had some spectacular sales, we’ve had a couple of bombs,” admitted Min. “That’s the nature of doing a weekly magazine.” Of note: Sources with access to scan data said People’s single-copy sales ranged between 1.4 million and 1.6 million this year, while In Touch has fluctuated between 1 million and 1.2 million.
Some wondered if an editor potentially commanding more than $2 million a year like Min should be allowed such newsstand unpredictability. “You’d hope by spending that much on an editor that they’d have complete consistency,” commented one publishing executive.
This story first appeared in the August 3, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Observers were also surprised to see how generous Min’s deal is since famously frugal Wenner founder Jann Wenner is said to have been cutting back compensation for other top-level executives at the company (perhaps to pay for Min?). Us Weekly associate publisher Charlie McNiff left Wenner in May after the two parties could not reach an agreement. Nevertheless, Wenner still had enough in the coffers to find McNiff’s replacement, as well as a new ad director at Rolling Stone. Scott Willett, the founding publisher of defunct lifestyle magazine Budget Living, will be Us Weekly’s new associate publisher, while Colleen Triggs Pappas will move to Rolling Stone after serving as beauty director at Us Weekly for seven years. — Stephanie D. Smith
FIRST TIMER: The YearlyKos Convention, which kicks off this week in Chicago, bills itself, in true New Media fashion, as “building a netroots nation.” But for the first time, a decidedly old media voice — that of The New Yorker and its political commentator Hendrik Hertzberg — will be adding to the clamor. Hertzberg, who participated in an earlier experiment in New Yorker political blogging that never saw the light of day, began his own blog Thursday. “Here goes my blogging virginity. It isn’t so bad,” he wrote. “The earth isn’t moving yet, but it seldom does the first time, does it?” A New Orleans blog by Dan Baum that appeared with the magazine’s site relaunch in the spring has been discontinued, but on Wednesday, The New Yorker unveiled a Los Angeles-based blog from staff writer Dana Goodyear, who started at the title a few years ago as editor in chief David Remnick‘s assistant. Her blog, like the other online-only content, is fact-checked per New Yorker policy, but Hertzberg’s real-time posts will not meet similar scrutiny. “It’s being looked at by the fact-checking department,” allowed online editor Blake Eskin, “but it’s being looked at quickly.” — Irin Carmon
A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND: Want that diamond but don’t want to tie the knot? Lucky magazine has asked six designers to come up with one-of-a-kind diamond rings that would be worn on the right hand (although, presumably, the retailers where they’ll be sold won’t complain if you switch). The rings — designed by Tracy Reese, Charlotte Ronson, Rebecca Taylor, Cynthia Rowley, Jill Stuart and Twinkle by Wenlan — are part of the magazine’s “value-added proposition” in getting an eight-page ad section for “A Diamond Is Forever” into its September issue. The rings will be sold in select Macy’s stores, and in the designer’s boutiques. A spokeswoman for “A Diamond Is Forever” declined to comment on the cost of the section, although it couldn’t come at a better time for the shopping and style title. July and August are traditionally quiet months for the jewelry category and Lucky had only one jewelry or watch ad in July and none in August. The September issue will have 13 pages of jewelry and watch ads (including the eight on the rings), although the overall issue is down 7.7 percent in ad pages, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. — Amy Wicks