Rivals poach from In Touch hutch

Bauer is seeing success

In Touch seems to have the touch.

Recent pillaging of the upstart celeb mag’s staff by rival pubs suggests the mag — once considered the bastard stepchild of the category — is doing something right.

Two vets of the In Touch Weekly launch team were poached by the competition recently: Former editor Steve LeGrice will launch TV Guide’s celeb title, Inside TV, and former In Touch news editor Mark Coleman bolted to Star Magazine to head its Los Angeles bureau.

Last year, Wenner’s Us Weekly stole former In Touch photo editor Peter Grossman and special projects editor Sarah Pyper.

New Jersey-based Bauer Publishing, owner of In Touch Weekly and the newly launched Life & Style, was once the main pirate in the field, raiding Gotham’s celeb titles for staff. But now the tide has shifted, causing mag publicists to make embarrassing concessions about their competition.

Star’s press release announcing the appointment of Coleman called rival In Touch “one of the publishing industry’s more recent success stories.”

Launched in November 2002, In Touch, which will soon report official circulation numbers, has a circulation approaching 1 million. Life & Style, launched in November with even more resources behind it, has a rate base of 350,000.

Bauer sells almost no subscriptions — meaning 97% of its sales occur on the newsstand, forcing the staff to keep a sharp eye on the basest obsessions of the celebrity-obsessed.

“You have to continually prove yourself to the reader every single week,” says Mark Pasetsky, G.M. for Life & Style. “There is a direct feedback mechanism by how we’re doing on the newsstand.”

“Nick and Jessica — is it over?” was In Touch’s biggest cover of the past year.

Star spokesman Stu Zakim, notes that Star owner American Media distributes In Touch through subsidiary Distribution Services, meaning the Star enjoys some of Bauer’s success, too.