MOVING BEYOND THE PAGE: Us Weekly is one of the few magazines that is expanding in the tough economy. For one, the title’s Web site, usmagazine.com, registered more unique visitors than one of its biggest rivals, people.com, for the month of July, the first time the Wenner site has surpassed the Time Inc. property. Usmagazine.com roped in 7.6 million visitors, while people.com tallied 7.4 million unique visitors, according to figures from comScore. The numbers came in part due to ongoing coverage of two huge celebrity deaths — Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. One attraction to usmagazine.com was exclusive footage from the Pepsi commercial where Jackson’s hair caught fire — the video was streamed 11 million times in July alone.
Us Weekly is also expanding offline. The magazine on Aug. 21 will publish the special bookazine Us Hair, a 130-page guide with product recommendations, paparazzi photos and how-to-style information. The smaller-sized title will be on newsstands for three months and have a cover price of $9.99. Wenner will publish around 450,000 copies of the special, which has no advertising. The subject matter is well-treaded territory — beauty and fashion make up 30 percent of Us Weekly’s content. Wenner originally planned to publish a quarterly style magazine this spring, Us Style, but shelved that project until at least 2010. “In this challenging economy, any commitment to a long-term venture is challenging,” admitted Vicci Lasdon Rose, the magazine’s publisher.
Us Hair is the magazine’s second bookazine; the first was a “Twilight”-themed issue of which 450,000 copies were produced in the first printing and which just entered a second printing of 100,000 issues. Wenner is planning a second “Twilight”-themed book in the fall, and is looking at a handful of other subjects the magazine can expand into bookazines in the future.
Meanwhile, the flagship title seems to be transitioning smoothly under acting editor in chief Michael Steele. His first issue with a cover story on the drama behind “The Bachelorette” sold 1.1 million copies, outpacing Us Weekly’s single-copy sales by an average of 843,470 for the first half of 2009. That’s about 2 percent fewer copies than the same period in 2008. Ad pages for the weekly title have declined 12 percent through Aug. 10 to 986, but that’s stronger than a nearly 30 percent contraction in ad pages across the whole magazine business. Rose said Us Weekly is seeing traction from the food, packaged goods, consumer electronics and entertainment categories. — Stephanie D. Smith
MORPHING MAGAZINES: Two British magazines are going to great lengths to stake their claim on newsstands this fall. The British Harper’s Bazaar has supersized its September issue, printing it in a larger format and on matte paper stock, while the U.K. edition of Esquire has given its September issue a hardback cover for the newsstand. Both titles are published by Natmags, a subsidiary of Hearst Corp.
Jeremy Langmead, Esquire’s editor, said the idea was prompted by wanting to raise the title’s game in the gloomy print media environment. “In the current climate, you can’t just send anything out without doing something a bit special,” said Langmead. “We all have to work harder for our buck.” The Esquire edition — whose hardback cover was sponsored by Ralph Lauren — also ties in with the launch of the magazine’s “Singular Suit” exhibition at London’s Somerset House, which showcases suits designers and artists have created together.
Lucy Yeomans, editor of Harper’s Bazaar, said she decided to do a second oversize issue of the title following the positive response to the limited edition larger issue the magazine produced in March, which sold 30 percent more copies than the title’s regular size. “We saw a good uplift on circulation for the March issue. It just adds that point of difference, when [other magazines] are going small and travel size,” said Yeomans. “As a fashion magazine, we have lots of product and it looks so fantastic in that big size, it’s got that jump-off-the-page factor.”
Tess Macleod Smith, group publishing director of Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar, declined to give figures comparing the advertising pages in the titles’ September 2009 issues to those of September 2008. “[Figures] are not as good as last year’s, as those were the strongest September issues we ever had,” said Macleod Smith. But she said Harper’s picked up new advertisers including Blumarine, Moncler and Gianfranco Ferré, which took eight pages in the title. “We had a great reaction from advertisers, who knew a bit about the different format from [seeing] W, but we don’t have W in the U.K,” said Macleod Smith, referring to a format and paper stock similar to the American title’s. Meanwhile, Esquire took on advertisers including H&M, Ballantyne and Stolichnaya.
However, Macleod Smith said the titles won’t keep to the new formats permanently — instead Harper’s plans to revive the large format for its future March and September issues. Meanwhile, Esquire has two further special covers planned — one for the October issue, which Langmead said Gucci has “invested in,” and another for the November issue. — Nina Jones