Grocery store shoppers in New York on Wednesday will see a new celebrity magazine vying for their attention at checkout: Bauer Publishing's Closer Weekly. Where the Kardashians and other young celebs usually appear, however, Closer's cover picks include Valerie Harper, Michael Douglas and JFK.
Bauer had earlier said it planned a celebrity weekly aimed at women in their mid-30s and up, but Closer Weekly is now aiming for women 40 and older, with "feel-good" celebrity stories and service-based articles, such as a feature on heels that don't hurt.
"This is a category that was built on a lot of women," said Marc Richards, publisher of Closer. "Now what we're seeing is they don't recognize a lot of these new stars."
Bauer Publishing is introducing Closer Weekly in a harsh newsstand environment, where magazines are suffering a years-long slump. In the first half of 2013, the industry's single-copy sales fell 10% from the period a year earlier, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.
But Bauer remains committed to a business model that places most of the emphasis on newsstand sales instead of subscription sales intended to attract advertising. It hopes differentiating the latest celebrity weekly -- which joins a field already crowded with magazines such as Us Weekly, Star, OK and Bauer's In Touch and Life & Style -- will help it succeed.
"Despite the fact that newsstand is slightly less than what it was, it's still a highly profitable vehicle for us," said Mr. Richards. "But it's tough to be a me-too magazine and just launch and look like someone else. You need to come out with something new and different and unique. We feel we've done that."
Closer Weekly aims to cover the celebrities with whom women 40 and older grew up. "It's kind of a place to come home to and see the people you grew up watching on TV and in the movies," said Annabel Vered, Closer's editor-in-chief. "You were with them for all the important stages of their lives from when they got married, fell in love, and had babies."
"Now they're onto new and exciting things in their lives," she continued, "and we're catching up with them."
Closer Weekly will share some resources with its sibling titles at Bauer, such as the photo and copy desk, but the new title will have its own editorial staff, according to Ms. Vered.
The first issue, which goes on sale nationwide Thursday, includes a wide cast of celebrities, from Julia Roberts and Durmot Mulroney, stars of "My Best Friend's Wedding," to Gavin MacLeod, who played Captain Merrill Stubing on "The Love Boat." The issue's youngest stars are Will and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, a couple that Ms. Vered said transcends generations.
Although newsstand is Bauer Publishing's primary business model, Closer Weekly will include some advertising. The 76-page inaugural issue has 17 pages of advertising, Mr. Richards said. Closer Weekly's older audience, he added, is an attractive one to advertisers, because they have disposable income, unlike the majority of millennials for whom most celebrity magazines are targeted.
The company said it will distribute 2 million copies to start at the discounted price of 25 cents and follow with a regular cover price of $3.99.
Just as other celebrity magazines have a recurring cast of characters -- think Kim Kardashian for the In Touch crowd -- Closer Weekly will feature its own usual suspects.
"Valerie Harper will continue to be an important story for us, as is Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones -- everyone on the cover," said Ms. Vered, a former editor at large for Life & Style. She also named Katie Couric, Sharon Osbourne, Valerie Bertinelli, Goldie Hawn and even 91-year-old Betty White. The pool of celebrities from which to choose, she said, is large.
One star Closer Weekly readers won't see is Miley Cyrus -- unless she's with her dad.
"You definitely won't see Miley Cyrus in my magazine," Ms. Vered said. "But will you see her with Billy Ray? Possibly. That's an angle that is more interesting to our readers … We might cover the same stories, but we'll cover them from different angles."
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