The tabloid tattler offers a peek at its redesigned look this week and debuts a new advertising campaign positioning it as a must-read. But most revealing is the Star's new editorial profile aimed at drawing in higher-paying advertisers.
Like the scandal-ridden celebrities that grace its pages, the Star wants another chance to prove it can clean up its act while giving the audience what it wants.
A NEW TWIST
The tabloid still promises it can tell readers absolutely everything about Hollywood's hottest. But it's added a new twist. The Star-often accused of showing celebrities at their worst-now wants to prove it can show them at their best.
"We're going to be more mainstream, and more conservative in the way information is portrayed," said Mr. Pecker, who readily admits to the desire to steal some of the ample market share currently captured by Time Inc.'s People.
The Star also will have to joust with Wenner Media's Us when the latter goes weekly next year.
The new version of the Star wants the celebrities it covers to feel comfortable about appearing in its pages. More celebrity-friendly stories have already begun to appear in the weekly. The Nov. 9 issue, for example, features a story and photo spread on Cher's home in London as well as an interview with Marilu Henner on raising kids. Editor In Chief Phil Bunton has increased the amount of celebrity coverage and de-emphasized the everyday but unusual people stories.
"We're not going to do so many stories on ordinary people. It will be celebrity, celebrity and more celebrity," Mr. Bunton said, such as a recent first-person piece penned by singer Mariah Carey.
Mr. Bunton has spread the word to publicists that the Star will play nice with their clients, especially for sections such as "Star Style," a weekly beauty and fashion feature.
"We will have features that will allow them to have the best presentation of their clients," he said.
STORIES WITH AN EDGE
That's not to say the reborn Star will no longer cover what it sees as legitimate breaking news stories.
"We're still going to be a little adversarial. We still want stories with an edge," Mr. Bunton said.
"What we're not going to do is leave the tabloid market. We aren't going to change what readers expect of us," Mr. Pecker agreed.
The tabloid sent out advance notice to readers about its rebirth in a flight of commercials from AG, New York, which started late last week. The ads will be updated with each week's issue.
The first shows a woman reading the Star, reacting to the stories with oohs and ahs and, at one point exclaiming, "I can't believe they got that." Interspersed are shots of the latest issue's stories. The campaign's tagline: "Nobody knows the stars like the Star."
Not even, presumably, sister publication National Enquirer. Mr. Pecker said the Enquirer's mission will be to do investigative stories on celebrity scandals while the Star will focus on the aftermath effect on the star's career.
Although its cover "face-lift" starts this week, Star readers won't see a difference on the inside pages until early next year, said David Matt, VP-publication design, Roger Black Consulting. Mr. Matt-brought in three weeks ago to work on the Star after his remake of the National Enquirer received praise from American Media-plans to have the entire redesign complete by the Jan. 24 issue.
"It's called the Star for a reason," Mr. Matt said. "We are going to really serve up the stars."
American Media executives hope the remake can boost single-copy sales. For the first six months of the year, the Star was down 6% in total circulation to 1,787,22, missing its 1.9 million rate base. People, by comparison, had a 1.6% decline in circulation during that time, but over-delivered on its 3.2 million rate base.
Can a scrappy tell-all tabloid change its ways? The executives behind the Star makeover believe it can, just enough to still satisfy readers and attract some all important advertisers. That could prove challenging given the Star is now once again without a publisher.
The recently appointed Jim Docherty resigned after only 11 days, and Mr. Pecker is again acting as publisher.
Mr. Pecker is heartened by the number of requests for proposals advertisers have sent the Star since his arrival. Last year at this time, the Star had received exactly two, he said. This year, he has received 67 from a variety of categories, including pharmaceutical, package goods, tobacco, travel, fashion/ beauty, Internet and entertainment.
Emboldened by that response, the Star will increase ad rates by 9.9% for 2000, and retain its rate base of 1.9 million. A color page will cost $44,290.
But he acknowledges not everyone will be won over right away. After several meetings in Detroit with the Big Three automakers, executives there said they "would take a wait and see," Mr. Pecker said.
TOUGH LOVE ATTITUDE
Mainstream advertisers will most likely take a tough love attitude toward the Star until it proves it can stick to its reformed ways.
"If they deliver on their editorial promise, it's conceivable they could give the established titles a run for their money," said Roberta Garfinkle, VP-media director, McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York. "But there are those clients
. . . who will say, 'OK, prove it, prove you've changed. I need to see the consistency.' "
So no more bad-girl behavior from the Star, unless, of course, there happens to