All the Aniston That's Fit to Print

Media Reviews for Media People: OK!

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After the coronation, after all the public negotiations and the private tribulations, I still don't know entirely what to make of "that one." The media magnetism. The shady personal associations. The ability to inspire and inflame. Yeah, that Jennifer Aniston gal is quite the polarizing figure.
OK! is a gossip publication that tries to keep its hands clean, which is as tantalizing as a fishing mag that avoids the water.
OK! is a gossip publication that tries to keep its hands clean, which is as tantalizing as a fishing mag that avoids the water.

Half the nation roots for her and the other half confuses her with Jennifer Garner. So bless you, OK! magazine, for redoubling your efforts at this time of national need and getting to the bottom of the rumors. Last week, the mag explored her most recent dalliance; this week, it surveys her to-do list as she approaches 40. Kudos to Patricia Ramos, whose contributions to both investigations anoint her as the Boswell of the Aniston beat.

Here's the thing, though: OK! doesn't appear to know much more about Aniston than I do. Both Aniston stories pad their central theses ("At 40, Jennifer is thinking about doing stuff, maybe") with unattributed quotes and flights of consumerist fancy ("She's even having the garage floor done with an expensive epoxy paint flake system!"). I can't decide whether they're inane or boring.

You read it here last
This is standard practice for OK! With the exception of paid-for exclusives (most involving celeb weddings or the Spears family) and the occasional sit-down with J-list personalities (I'm eating breakfast as I write, so forgive me if I skip Carnie Wilson's meditations on sex during pregnancy), the mag trails print and even online competitors in terms of access. How out of the loop is it? The Nov. 17 issue uses two quotes from a Nicole Kidman interview currently appearing in Glamour as the primary source of its cover feature on Katie Holmes' throbbing womb. Is that legal? In most cases, OK! turns to a "pal," an "insider," a "body language expert" or an "L.A.-based psychologist" to backstop its speculation.

People has its warm smiles and mommies overcoming tragedy. Us Weekly has its practiced she-wore-that? bitchery. Hell, nowadays the National Enquirer does better work ferreting out political scandal than most newspapers. So not to get philosophical on y'all, but what pressing reason is there for OK! to exist, especially at a time where there are hundreds of celebrity journalists tailing the same six tarts?

There isn't one, the mag's budget-minded cover pitch notwithstanding ("50¢ cheaper than Us Weekly & People"). OK! is a gossip publication that tries to keep its hands clean, which is as tantalizing as a fishing mag that avoids the water. Instead of dishing the dirt that readers want, OK! prints bland, non-embarrassing photos and captions them as innocuously as possible ("they went for coffee and couldn't be happier"). To fill space, it takes the usual women's-mag staples (style, beauty, etc.) and applies a thick celebrity glaze. Thus we're treated to a piece likening on-set romances to regular workplace ones and a bit on "how to score a sexy sports star" that doubles as a really, really poorly researched travelogue. Actual sentence: "To find the best ballers, like Michael Jordan, visit Chicago."

Ad content flimsy, too
Any discussion of OK!'s content may well be moot, given that marketers don't seem too enthusiastic about it. Both the Nov. 10 and 17 issues clock in at 86 pages, only around 10 of which are occupied by ads. Several of those pages, notably the ones featuring nonprofits (the Salvation Army, March of Dimes) and direct-response balms (Doc Wilson's WreckingBalm Tattoo Fade System, Atro-Phex diet pills), likely aren't huge sources of revenue.

I suspect that OK! may be making up part of the difference by auctioning off some of its edit pages to the highest bidder. As evidence, I point you to the most recent issue's "Body & Soul" piece, which conveys heretofore classified advice about avoiding the common office cold ("eat well," "wash your hands"). It's the story's illustration that caught my eye: a desk spread featuring a phone, a stapler, Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, Vicks Early Defense and Harris Green Tea. The only way the brands could be more obnoxiously front and center is if they were displayed in 3-D, or perhaps illuminated with gigantic neon arrows. Let's hope they got something for this, it certainly doesn't help the reader. Your witness, counselor.

The joke's on me for taking OK! seriously. After all, criticizing a celebrity magazine for being stupid and shallow is like criticizing a ladder for being tall: Neither can help what it intrinsically is. That said, OK!'s U.S. edition lacks distinctive positioning within a saturated marketplace, not to mention personality (like Us Weekly) or heart (like People). I don't know why anybody would read this magazine.
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