Magazine A-List 2009

People Is No. 5 on Ad Age's Magazine A-List

E-commerce, Online Games, Mobile Apps: This Isn't Your Mom's 'People'

By Published on .

NEW YORK ( -- Consider People's presence on the 2009 list a sign that the traditional metrics are less and less determinative. They're hugely important -- but so are the new ways forward. People suffered declines in newsstand sales and ad pages, like almost everyone else, but it also spent the year trying new things.

"Look, it's been a very challenging year from an economic standpoint," said Paul Caine, president-group publisher of the Time Inc. Style and Entertainment Group. "But our strategy for this year, the last few years, and the next few years, has not been about the economy, it's been about the consumer."

Try something new. Even behemoths can find new places to connect with readers.
Larry Hackett
Paul Caine
So the consumer is finding People, as People is finding consumers, in more places and more ways. There's e-commerce: People StyleWatch, the sibling brand, has a shopping tab highlighting clothes and jewelry, for example, then connecting visitors to retailers' sites. People gets a cut of the sales. Since July, People has offered visitors access to 2,000 games, some for free and others with fees, from the catalog of Big Fish Games; People gets a slice of that new revenue, too.

People has had a channel on Taxi TV -- the network of video-touch screens in New York City taxis -- since 2008. Now it has started selling advertising there. Captivate Network video screens in building elevators regularly feature People content. The $1.99 Celebrity Tracker app that launched in May with Unilever as a sponsor hit fourth place among paid entertainment apps at its peak; People is eyeing three more apps for 2010.

People's Twitter feed has 1.49 million followers. Heck, the Twitter account has 764,322 followers.

That can't do anything but help maintain its position among celebrity-magazine sites. It attracted 8.9 million unique visitors in August, the most recent month available, compared with 4.2 million for Us Weekly's site and less than 600,000 each for the other celebrity glossies, according to Nielsen Online. However, TMZ led People with 9.5 million uniques -- consider that battle engaged.

1. Women's Health
2. Better Homes & Gardens
3. Family Circle
4. The Economist
5. People
6. Essence
7. The Week
8. Backpacker
9. Cosmopolitan
10. National Geographic
But this isn't just about digital and video and all that new stuff: People's inclusion here is also our ode to a print product's mass reach in a rapidly fracturing media business. It's true that its newsstand sales, down 12.8% in the first half, weren't immune from the problems that afflicted almost everyone. That still put this behemoth's single-copy sales above 1.3 million, more than half a million more than the next celebrity competitor and second only to Cosmopolitan among all magazines. What's more, readers are still willing to shell out real dollars for People -- despite all the free celebrity websites and cheaper magazines now available.

As circulation expert Jack Hanrahan pointed out in his "Circle of Success" awards in March, People's subscribers pay more than $100 every year -- and over $5 more than they did in 2004. "Single-copy buyers pay over $4 an issue on average when People's special issues are woven in," Mr. Hanrahan added. "Across 2008, just shy of 1.5 million buyers did that each week. Despite the nasty environment at retail, People's single-copy sales were higher in 2008 than they were in 2004 ... when a copy cost less."

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