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MOVING BEYOND THE PAGE: Us Weekly is one of the few magazines that is expanding in the tough economy. For one, the title’s Web site, usmagazine.com, registered more unique visitors than one of its biggest rivals, people.com, for the month of July, the first time the Wenner site has surpassed the Time Inc. property. Usmagazine.com roped in 7.6 million visitors, while people.com tallied 7.4 million unique visitors, according to figures from comScore. The numbers came in part due to ongoing coverage of two huge celebrity deaths — Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. One attraction to usmagazine.com was exclusive footage from the Pepsi commercial where Jackson’s hair caught fire — the video was streamed 11 million times in July alone.
Us Weekly is also expanding offline. The magazine on Aug. 21 will publish the special bookazine Us Hair, a 130-page guide with product recommendations, paparazzi photos and how-to-style information. The smaller-sized title will be on newsstands for three months and have a cover price of $9.99. Wenner will publish around 450,000 copies of the special, which has no advertising. The subject matter is well-treaded territory — beauty and fashion make up 30 percent of Us Weekly’s content. Wenner originally planned to publish a quarterly style magazine this spring, Us Style, but shelved that project until at least 2010. “In this challenging economy, any commitment to a long-term venture is challenging,” admitted Vicci Lasdon Rose, the magazine’s publisher.
Us Hair is the magazine’s second bookazine; the first was a “Twilight”-themed issue of which 450,000 copies were produced in the first printing and which just entered a second printing of 100,000 issues. Wenner is planning a second “Twilight”-themed book in the fall, and is looking at a handful of other subjects the magazine can expand into bookazines in the future.
Meanwhile, the flagship title seems to be transitioning smoothly under acting editor in chief Michael Steele. His first issue with a cover story on the drama behind “The Bachelorette” sold 1.1 million copies, outpacing Us Weekly’s single-copy sales by an average of 843,470 for the first half of 2009. That’s about 2 percent fewer copies than the same period in 2008. Ad pages for the weekly title have declined 12 percent through Aug. 10 to 986, but that’s stronger than a nearly 30 percent contraction in ad pages across the whole magazine business. Rose said Us Weekly is seeing traction from the food, packaged goods, consumer electronics and entertainment categories. — Stephanie D. Smith