As The Tabloid Wars Heat Up, Do We All Lose?

Illustration for article titled As The Tabloid Wars Heat Up, Do We All Lose?

History has been made: For the first time since its launch in in 2002, In Touch has beaten People on newsstands. How? With a cover featuring Kate Gosselin spanking her kid.

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According to WWD, In Touch's Bauer Publishing spent around $75,000 on the exclusive photos, which they also ran in sister publication Life & Style. The same week, People published its "Hottest Bachelor" issue, with Chace Crawford as the main image. It's fairly obvious that People's cover:

1. Is not "news" or gossip — what weekly readers are usually looking for.
2. Is not appealing to a wide segment of the population; many people have no idea who the decidedly B-list Chace Crawford is. While he may have films in the works, his show doesn't have great ratings and he's not a household name like former "Bachelor" picks Matthew McConaughey or even last year's pick, Mario Lopez.
3. Has questionable wording, as 23-year-old Crawford's hotness is debatable, and making a big deal of his status as a bachelor? At 23? Odd. (When McConaughey was on, the wording emphasized "Sexy And Single!")

In any case, Kate Gosselin has become something of a cash cow for the weeklies: Us has done seven Gosselin-related covers in a row, and when the editors deviated with Stephanie Pratt's "bulimia" issue, sales plummeted, reports the New York Post.

Of course, Jon and Kate are only a temporary replacement for those other tabloid staples, Brad and Angelina. But is the narrative for both the Gosselins and the Jolie-Pitts similar, in some ways? With both couples, there's a deep interest in the woman, and what kind of person she is. Kate is depicted either as a nag, an opportunist, or both; Angelina as impulsive or a saint, or a husband-stealer and seductress. Both women are mothers with a mess of kids, which supermarket shoppers — the target audience for these publications, which compete for real estate at checkout aisles nationwide — can often relate to. And with both couples, a storyline unfolded before the world's eyes, so that picking up a weekly magazine became a way to keep up with episodes on the soap opera.

Illustration for article titled As The Tabloid Wars Heat Up, Do We All Lose?


The problem for the tabloids, of course, is that Angelina and Brad don't have a TV show about their personal lives. So the magazines are forced to create "episodes" — whether or not they are based in fact. As Oliver Burkeman writes in the Guardian:

The frenetic state of today's celebrity news industry stems from one inescapable fact: the lives of real people - even people as volatile and wealthy as A-list movie stars - simply don't unfold fast enough to meet the appetite for information about them. Weekly magazines need weekly scoops, and preferably scoops different enough to distinguish them from their rivals.

Editorial meetings at celebrity magazines, therefore, may not always resemble those elsewhere. "You build the story around an emotion," says a celebrity weekly editor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "What's happening with poor Jen this week? Well, John Mayer's seeing someone else, and for a woman of her age, that must be awful ... So you construct a narrative of what a woman her age may be feeling." Stories may start with nothing more than a set of photographs: Aniston looking happy, or sad - or happy one moment and sad the next, since if you take multiple shots of anyone, with a fast shutter speed, you can capture a range of expressions. "The question is: how can we construct a story around a set of emotions that our readers are going to relate to? It can come from a genuine tip, or a photo. Or it can come out of our ass."

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But do people know — or care — that the weekly tabloids repeatedly print false stories? Does the blurred line between "news" and entertainment bother anyone? How long can money be made off of Jon and Kate, Brad and Angie? And now that the Gosselins have taken over for Angelina and Brad as the tabloid darlings, who will replace the Gosselins when readers have had enough of that story?

And: Though In Touch bested People in sales, since In Touch has a history of "fake news" covers, can it really be declared a winner?

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Illustration for article titled As The Tabloid Wars Heat Up, Do We All Lose?

Kate Plus Cover: In Touch Beats People With Reality-Show Photo [NY Post]
The Brangelina Industry [Guardian]
Memo Pad: Kate Versus Chace [WWD]

DISCUSSION

ZemarSea-Urchin
ZemarSea-Urchin

I always wonder how much is made up by the mag; how much is made up by the celebs publicist; how much is dialed in by someone spurned by the celeb; and how much is actually true. I figure all of those ingredients factor in I just don't know what percent.