Us, O lead mag growth

Oprah's uptick due to Hearst's 'aggressive' circulation

Anyone holding their breath for the Us Weekly bubble to burst can expect to keep holding. Circulation for the entertainment mag continued its growth trend, with newsstand sales spiking 24.8% for the first six months of the year, according to new figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Us led growth in the entertainment mag category, which overall posted gains.

The real leader, however, was Oprah Winfrey, whose magazine, O, had a whopping 37.5% increase in newsstand sales, after some substantial downticks in recent years. A Hearst spokesperson said the explosive growth was due to Hearst’s “aggressive” concentration on newsstand, as opposed to subscription, sales. The company is set to announce a rate-base circulation hike for O to 2.15 million from 2.1 million beginning in 2004. O’s total circ is 2.5 million.

A celebrity who fared less well was Martha Stewart. Trailing its founder’s public demise, Martha Stewart Living fell by 18% at newsstands in the first half of 2003, although a slight uptick in subscriptions pushed the mag’s circulation up 1.9% to 2.36 million.

As for Us Weekly, more interesting will be numbers released for the second half of the year, which will reflect the magazine’s success without former editor in chief Bonnie Fuller, who left the post in June.

The recent surge in Us readership is almost entirely attributed to Fuller, who grew the mag’s circ by more than 50% to 1.1 million in the 16 months she was topper. Fuller exited Wenner Media to work as editorial director of the tabloid empire American Media, where she is overseeing the glossification of Star.

Current editor Janice Min, formerly Fuller’s No. 2, has stuck to her old boss’s formula, however — immortalizing celebs’ bad hair days and capturing them at their most ordinary — suggesting that numbers will not drop significantly.

Another worthy gain was made by Bauer Publishing’s In Touch Weekly, which this week scrutinizes Hollywood boob jobs, and which launched last fall with a rate base circulation of 250,000. In the first half of 2003, the mag shot to a total circulation of 423,289. (In Touch is substantially cheaper than its competitors, with a cover price of $1.99 compared with People and Us Weekly’s $3.29.)

Other entertainment magazines showed more modest increases. Newsstand sales for Time Inc.’s Entertainment Weekly grew by 5.5% from the first half of 2002; Hachette Filipacchi’s Premiere was up 5.2%; and Time Inc.’s People — the leader in the group with a circulation of 3.6 million — remained flat at 0.7%. Numbers for Movieline’s Hollywood Life were not yet available.