The birth of the royal baby will likely boost newsstand sales for celebrity weeklies, but will they top newsstand sales from a couple of royal births 30 years?
Back in July 1982, the People magazine edition with a newborn Prince William sold 2.6 million copies at the newsstand, the Time Inc. title said. An October 1984 issue featuring Prince Harry's birth sold 1.9 million copies.
"Obviously, the interest in the royal family remains strong -- perhaps as strong as it was in 1982 when Prince William was born, if not more," said Larry Hackett, managing editor of People. "People's royal-wedding issue in 2011 sold more than 2 million copies on the newsstand. Our readers can't get enough of William and Kate and are anxiously awaiting the birth of their first child."
Across titles, the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first child is expected to be a boon for newsstand sales. Their wedding, for instance, drew more than $13 million in retail sales for U.S. magazines, according to the Magazine Information Network. With the royal baby due any minute now, celebrity weeklies in the U.S. have their European reporters and editors poised to offer reports from outside London's St. Mary's Hospital, where the duchess will give birth.
"It's consuming us," Us Weekly Editor-in-Chief Michael Steele said. "It's our No. 1 priority right now."
Already, the magazines are capitalizing at the newsstand. The Wenner Media-owned US Weekly, for instance, turned out a special interest publication for the newsstand -- at a cost of $10 -- on the royal baby earlier this year, according to Mr. Steele. That edition has sold in the low six figures, he said. Us Weekly is planning another special-interest publication on the baby due out in the next month or so.
A spokeswoman for Us Weekly said the magazine's cover featuring the newly married William and Kate in 2011 was among the year's bestselling issues.
"We've been covering the royals since the moment they got engaged," Mr. Steele noted. "We were the first ones to break the engagement and the first ones to break the pregnancy."
Us Weekly, which has its European bureau chief and a bullpen of stringers at the ready, is one of only 10 press outlets allowed in a private area outside the hospital. There they will wait to snap pictures of Kate holding the baby when she leaves the hospital. On its website, the magazine will stream live video from outside the hospital.
People is the only other U.S.-based celebrity weekly with access to the private area outside the hospital. Like US Weekly, People's full-time bureau chief in London and several freelancers in the U.K. will offer extensive coverage of the birth online and in print. The magazine plans to put out a special collector's book on the royal baby in August, a spokeswoman for People said.
A spokeswoman for In Touch and Life & Style, both of which are owned by Bauer Media, said the magazines also have reporters and editors in place and are planning wall-to-wall coverage. Bauer's Life Story has a Royal edition on stands now, she added.
The timing of the birth could be precarious for the weeklies, all of which put their issues to bed by late Monday night or early Tuesday morning. Their print editions hit newsstands on Wednesday morning. Depending on when the baby is born, and when the duchess leaves the hospital, the weeklies could struggle to put fresh news about the event on their print covers. They could go to print early, though at least one magazine said that was unlikely.
Mr. Steele said such considerations are all part of reporting breaking news in the Twitter age.
"When something happens, we break it on Twitter, cover it on the website and then we start writing it about for the magazine," Mr. Steele said. "It's sort of a rolling-out process … depending on where we are in the news cycle, it'll just go to the appropriate platform."