Sunday, February 18, 2007

Good News from the Anti-Celebrity Front

My friends know that I am offended by the degree to which our culture worships celebrity, followed closely by its worship of "celebrities". Yes, there is a distinction: we take fame to be the greatest of life's achievements. If it is we ourselves who are famous, all the better, but we'll gladly follow those who have it if we ourselves aren't the possessors of its elusive charms.

The hallmark of our veneration of celebrities (and, let's admit it: celebrity transcends actors, musicians, and sportsmen and now includes businessmen and entrepreneurs as well) has been the rise of the celebrity tabloid. People (an Enquirer in glossy, magazine form), In Touch, Us, OK!, Hello, In Style, Star, Enquirer, Vogue, etc. have enjoyed booming circulations, and most new title launches of the last ten-to-twenty years have been devoted (primarily) to actors and other entertainers.

That trend appears to be at an end. As this New York Post illustrates: "MAGS' CIRC SAGS"
The largest drops in circulation are amongst the oldest names in the biz, including Readers' Digest, down nearly 20% in circulation, followed closely by Woman's Day and Redbook. Each are relics of a 1950's sensibility, to be sure: however, once venerated titles such as Vogue (down 6%) are also in major trouble.

The most volatile segment is celebrity titles. Once the trend among new magazine launches, celebrity magazines are clearly in a downward cycle:
Bonnie Fuller, a high-profile editor who's reigned for years over a declining Star, could face fallout over the magazine's 15.9 percent plunge in newsstand sales in the second half this year from a year ago. Newsstand sales account for about half the Star's 1.5 million circulation, and its hands-on editor, Joe Dolce, already walked the plank this week, replaced by Candace Trunzo, from sister title Enquirer. Fuller is editorial director of the Star.
The biggest winners in the changing marketplace:
Among the winners, Meredith's Better Homes & Gardens saw circulation rise 6.8 percent, BusinessWeek was ahead 25.4 percent, CondeNast Traveler gained 19.9 percent, and Time Inc.'s Cooking Light advanced 8.9 percent.
In other words, home decor, travel and cooking, and the corresponding appeal to appreciating what we have is winning out over living vicariously through actors and celebrities and the corresponding desire for elusive things that won't make us feel happy or fulfilled within the construct of our real lives.

To borrow a phrase from Martha Stewart: That's a good thing!

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