Victim of Parent Company’s Newfound Conservatism

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NEW YORK ( -- American Media has decided to kill Celebrity Living Weekly, Shape en Espanol and car mag MPH, Advertising Age has learned. With that decision, Celebrity Living becomes the first celebrity weekly to close since Us Weekly put the once-unstoppable category on the map.

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"The magazine industry is in a very challenging time for both advertising and circulation," American Media CEO David Pecker said. "This not a reflection of any individual's performance but it is a prudent to review your portfolio of magazines and make difficult decisions."

Still a crowded field
Its demise leaves the field of glossy star-gazers, well, still very crowded. Those still standing include People, although the Time Inc. book prefers to emphasize that it is about “real people” and not just celebrities; Us Weekly from Wenner Media; Bauer Publishing's In Touch Weekly and Life & Style Weekly; OK from Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell North America; and American Media's Star.

Inside TV, a short-lived TV-centric weekly published by Gemstar-TV Guide, overlapped with the category but did not play in quite the same space.

While the end of Celebrity Living finally proves that the celebrity-living category, which is both much maligned and much admired, does have limits, it probably most benefits Life & Style Weekly, another celebrity-lifestyle execution of the genre.

Many are convinced the herd has more thinning ahead. "Oversaturation in this category and a fickle newsstand market will separate men from the boys," said George Janson, managing partner and director of print, Mediaedge:cia.

The decision to pull the plug came amid a crescendo of industry buzz -- and not the good kind -- surrounding the title.

American Media recently decided not to increase the number of checkout-aisle pockets devoted to Celebrity Living, figuring that the additional exposure wouldn't cover the cost of securing new retail real estate. But an executive at a rival publisher said he'd heard that American Media was relinquishing pockets previously used by Celebrity Living. "We also heard reports yesterday that they're scaling back their print order and printing fewer copies," he said.

Delivering on rate base
Celebrity Living had guaranteed advertisers a paid circulation of 225,000 and executives with knowledge of the title said it was delivering. Its ad pages were not tracked by the Publishers Information Bureau and it never grew old enough to file reports with the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

American Media as a whole has also not performed as well as its executives, investors and bondholders had hoped, and it recently began adopting a more conservative management philosophy. It has increased the number of board members representing its chief equity backers, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Evercore Partners, as well as filled in the executive ranks just below Mr. Pecker, chairman-CEO. And bondholders recently forced the company into an agreement laden with incentives to lower its leverage.

Kelli Delaney, editor in chief at Celebrity Living, will leave the company. Celebrity Living’s Michelle Myers, VP-publisher, is also publisher of Star and will remain with that title.

Mr. Pecker made the decisions in order to get American Media's house in order. In other changes Shape en Espanol and MPH will both also close. Neither gained large audiences in their brief lives.

Separately, David Perel was named editor of The National Enquirer, succeeding Paul Field. The Enquirer is also moving its headquarters back to Florida from New York, where it relocated in last year. Mr. Perel had been an editor at Enquirer.

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