The Race for the Brangelina Baby Photos

What Everyone Is Talking About Today

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Watercooler was no doubt not the only ones surprised this week to see the cover of the current issue of New York. Gazing at us from the newsstand was what appeared at first glance to be Brad and Angelina wearing stylish shades and holding a newborn swaddled in a long white blanket. Wait just a minute ... had we missed the blessed event? Had the Brangelina babe been born?
New York Magazine used models and computer illustration for its mock cover.
New York Magazine used models and computer illustration for its mock cover.


No. Thankfully the big news had not slipped undetected through our gossip-loving fingers. The New York cover carried a requisite disclaimer. The picture's stubbly hunk was a Brad-imposter and the image of Ms. Jolie was a computer composite. The New York cover story speculates on the price ($5 million) a lucky member of the paparazzi might get for a picture of the sure to be genetically-blessed child and discusses the ins and outs of the celebrity photo-biz.

Since American Media closed Celebrity Living last week, there has been speculation that celebrity journalism is in trouble. The marketplace has become crowded with celebrity titles in recent years responding to the public's seemingly limitless desire for juicy coverage of their favorite stars. The proliferation of celebrity journals has provoked competition and led to price cuts (In Touch Weekly sells for $1.99 and OK! temporarily dropped its price from $3.29 to $1.99). In addition, newsweeklies continue to devote more of their space to celebrity coverage.

In this cutthroat environment, the race to scoop up exclusive pics is fierce. A photographer who happens to be in the right place at the right time can earn a lot of money. But as the New York article points out, to really make the big bucks, context is key. If a picture can provoke a rumor or is suitable for a snarky caption, it is more valuable. For example, a picture of Jessica Simpson's ex, Nick Lachy, can be sold for $1,000 but an exclusive picture of him with another woman, such as Kristin Cavallari, might be worth $100,000. A picture of Nicole Ritchie buying coffee might be worth $1,000 but a picture of the skeletal star eating something might be worth $10,000 as an exclusive.

Such high prices increase the financial burden on weeklies that are constantly trying to trim the fat to stay profitable. Is it worth it for a magazine to pay so much? There is evidence that suggests celebrity baby photos do sell a lot of magazines. People's third best-selling issue had Julia Roberts and her twins on the cover. Plus, beyond extra sales, a high-profile "get" is good for the image of the magazine. New York quotes an unnamed editor of a celebrity weekly who said, "Just having it [an exclusive photo] is good for the brand to show readers that your magazine is the one that gets these sorts of photos."

The exclusive might not just go to the magazine with the deepest pockets. Many celebrity parents arrange the sale of the photos themselves in order to reduce the paparazzi feeding-frenzy or raise money for a cause. It is likely that the charity-minded Jolie-Pitts will take this route, given the way Angelina revealed her pregnancy. The first picture of the Brangelina "bump" was taken with the star's consent by an employee of the Yele Haiti charity in Haiti. People then made a donation of $500,000 to the charity in exchange for the photo.

New York's hyperbolic (and no doubt offensive to some) headline reads "Not Since Jesus." While we at WaterCooler would hesitate to compare the birth of the Brangelina baby to that of God's only son, especially during Easter week, we, like the rest of America, are eager to see the pictures. But we are perhaps even more eager to discover the manner in which the birth is heralded unto the world. For lo unto them was born a babe ... and they sold the pix for charity.
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