Time Inc.'s most profitable magazine is working hard to keep that status. Next month, People stuffs checkout counters with pocket-size biographies of celebrities, the latest extension to its 25-year-old title.
Every month, People Profiles will hit newsstands, offering readers 130 pages of insight into a specific star. July's topic: Tom Hanks; Julia Roberts is featured in August.
The "book-a-zines," as the publisher calls them, are the latest attempt to further capitalize on the public's insatiable appetite for celebrities.
"What readers are looking for are the intimate details that really allow them to connect with an individual," said People President Nora McAniff. "It's rare for one of our editors to be able to tell a story from beginning to end, but they can in this format."
NO ADS FOR NOW
For now, People Profiles will carry no advertising. But next year, People executives may choose to sell a few select pages. In part to make up for the lack of advertising, People Profiles will sell for $4.99, much more than other digest-size titles, which typically sell for $3.
Time executives aren't concerned about the higher price tag. They're printing 500,000 copies of the July issue to be distributed via 70,000 checkout pockets of 150 chain retail outlets, including supermarkets, airports, drugstores and general merchandise stores such as Kmart Corp., Target Stores and Wal-Mart Stores.
With that distribution, VP-Consumer Marketing Steve Shure estimated the company will sell at least 250,000 copies of the first issue.
People is moving into a space others abandoned; more of the digest-size checkout stand pockets became available after American Media folded Soap Opera News in February.
Last August, People tested a biography of Mel Gibson in Giant supermarkets in the Baltimore/Washington area with "extremely positive" results, said Gary Ryan, People's consumer marketing director. That coupled with the success of tribute issues on Princess Diana and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis convinced executives to go ahead with the launch.
The editorial content will read like an extended People article, with pictures scattered throughout.
MONIKER ALREADY USED ON TV
The name, People Profiles, already was used as the title of a series of 10 1-hour TV specials aired on CNN this year tied to People's 25th anniversary issue.
More TV programming may appear later using the name, Ms. McAniff said.
Just how many People-branded titles can a newsstand hold, considering that siblings Teen People and People en Espanol are also clamoring for the attention of star-struck readers?
"The People brand generally stands for high-quality content presented in easy, bite-size pieces," said John Grace, executive director of Interbrand Consulting. "If they are continuing to deliver that, the vehicle doesn't matter. As long as each product stays consistent with the brand, they can slice the market any number of ways."
Copyright June 1999, Crain Communications Inc.