WOMB TO MANEUVER: If celebrity procreation is your obsession, it’s truly a wonderful time to be alive.

Not content to plop the swollen abdomens of Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears, Katie Holmes and others on practically every regular issue, People is publishing a special called Celebrity Babies early next month. One million copies of the issue, which will focus on the purchases and lifestyles of new and expecting Hollywood parents, will be distributed on newsstands beginning June 8.

According to publisher Paul Caine, Martha Nelson, editor of the People group, came up with the idea for the special just five weeks ago, after noting a pattern of consistently high sales for just about any cover with a newborn on it. “It’s not that babies are a trend, because people are always having babies, but there’s just so much attention right now against it,” he said. That attention helped Caine to sell 37 ad pages in the special, including 21 from new clients who have never advertised in People before, mainly baby-centric companies like A Pea in the Pod, Liz Lange for Target and Timberland Kids. (People publishes several other newsstand specials, including the regular Style Watch, which will come out five times in 2006.)

While all the weekly gossip titles vie for glimpses into stars’ nurseries and strollers (and, on occasion, their wombs — the National Enquirer published a sonogram alleged to be Jolie’s in January), People most often publishes the first official photos of famous spawn. “These celebrities trust People with their baby pictures,” boasted Caine. “It’s the best way for them to get their pictures out there in a way that they are proud of.”

Of course, competitors have long suggested there are other motives at play, claiming People bends its never-pay-for-access rule to snare the most sought-after shots. At the moment, unconfirmed reports are circulating that People has cut a tentative deal to make a $5 million donation to UNICEF in exchange for the exclusive first images of Jolie’s newborn, fathered by Brad Pitt and expected to arrive any day now. Asked about those reports, Caine demurred. “I can’t say we’re going to have them and I can’t say we’re not,” he said, adding that, either way, they won’t be in Celebrity Babies, which has already closed. “The baby hasn’t been born yet. When the baby’s born, I’m pretty sure we’re going to be on it.”
Jeff Bercovici

This story first appeared in the May 25, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.