The Scandal Sheet Everyone Wants to Be in

Page Six: 'New York Post' Is Guilty Pleasure of Power Brokers Using Its Buzz to Build Business

By Published on .

Most Popular
NEW YORK ( -- When the New York Post's Page Six runs one of its punchy one-line "Sightings"-say, "Tara Reid, drinking a Grey Goose martini at Cain..."-the reaction among many readers may be something along the lines of "Wow, she sure dances on an awful lot of banquettes." But to more business folk than who'd care to admit it, such quick-hit plugs have evolved into crucial components of branding or marketing campaigns-within and without New York City.
Page Six has long since eclipsed its gossip-rag status and become ground zero for event, venue and product blurbs, influence-peddling allegations be damned.
Page Six has long since eclipsed its gossip-rag status and become ground zero for event, venue and product blurbs, influence-peddling allegations be damned.

If the fetchingly unhinged Ms. Reid is passing the wee hours of the morning at Cain, the thinking goes, that only affirms the nightspot's celebrity/player bona fides. If she's daintily sipping a Grey Goose martini, that confirms the vodka's eminence. If she's later spotted canoodling with a C-list, meticulously side-burned TV actor... well, never mind.

The example is mythical, but the point is real: Page Six has long since eclipsed its gossip-rag status and become ground zero for event, venue and product blurbs, influence-peddling allegations be damned.

Asked to put a price tag on the worth of seemingly innocuous Page Six mentions like the one above, those who may have benefited in the past from them respond with the exact same two words: You can't.

"It's incredibly, incredibly valuable," says longtime Page Six fixture Ian Schrager, president-CEO of the Ian Schrager Co., which counts New York's soon-to-reopen Gramercy Park Hotel among its holdings. "The big companies that used to advertise on TV and everywhere else-they're all groping around and trying to figure out what to do next. Nightclubs figured out 30 years ago that being on Page Six gets the tom-toms beating. It gets people passing the message around."

Adds Stuart Zakim, VP-corporate public relations at Showtime Networks, who occasionally jousted with Page Six during his tenures at American Media and Wenner Media: "With blogs and everything else, print may not be as important as it was, but Page Six transcends all the new technology."

Asked why Page Six is so successful, the paper proffers a very un-Post-like, downright restrained response. "Because we break big stories, they're accurate and we break them first," reads a statement attributed to Editor in Chief Col Allan.

As casual as many of the column's mentions may look, any number of strategic calculations go into snaring them. Rules of thumb include limiting the frequency of your calls (editors are said to pick up the faintest whiff of desperation) and taking pains to be relevant, especially when pitching something outside the page's celebrity/hotspot purview (Corzo tequila tapping Vogue France creative designer Fabian Baron to design its new bottle: good. Kellogg assembling the world's largest Pop-Tart outside New York's Penn Station: not so much).

While many of the items that litter Page Six on a daily basis are New York City-centric, pundits caution marketers not to underestimate its national influence. Though the paper has a daily circulation of 662,681, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, its sphere of influence reaches much further: netted 2.3 million unique visitors in March, according to Nielsen NetRatings.

Publicists also stress that Page Six attracts readers far more influential than gossip hounds obsessed with the crest of J-Lo's derriere. "Big business people in entertainment, politics and real estate-people you'd never think would read it," said Elizabeth Harrison, co-principal of PR shop Harrison & Shriftman, which reps the W South Beach Hotel and Grey Goose.

Ms. Harrison and her peers practically scoff at the worry of many a publicly traded company exec that Page Six inclusion (and, in some cases, notoriety) can only do harm. "The biggest harm Page Six can do to any business is to ignore it," said Nathan Ellis, co-founder of Syndicate, a PR and marketing firm that reps Page Six mainstays Marquee and the Tribeca Grand Hotel.

'Get This Off Page Six!'

Richard Laermer, CEO of RLM Public Relations, can recall only a single client that wanted off Page Six: "This guy, 12 years ago, told all these fancy restaurants that he was a professor at Columbia Business School, then he'd disappear without paying the check. Columbia would say, 'Get this off Page Six!"' He paused, then added, "I'm pretty sure the restaurants weren't all that upset about being there."

In the end, maybe a well-timed Page Six nugget does more to humanize a brand-whether a chi-chi boite or a venerable automaker-than does a comparable item in just about any other media entity. "A lot of brands need to be perceived as a little less serious," Mr. Laermer said. "Page Six can help them along with that."

As for the recent scandal around Page Six-Jared Paul Stern, a freelancer, has been accused by supermarket magnate Ron Burkle of attempting to extort $220,000 for favorable coverage-pundits dismiss its potential impact on the value of a plug. "I seriously doubt it will impact Page Six's importance," sniffed Mr. Ellis. "In a way, it may have underscored it."
In this article: