It wasn't the $2 million-plus Bonnie Fuller, nor Janice Min's former No. 2 (and former British OK! chief) Nicola McCarthy who will be replacing Sarah Ivens (who says she gave notice back in June) atop OK!. Instead, new-ish general manager Kent Brownridge opted for Susan Toepfer of Hearst's recently shuttered Quick & Simple, a might-as-well-be eponym for the tabloid biz. More interesting, though, is Brownridge's unexpected shakeup on the publisher side: Out is Tom Morrissey, in is Lori Burgess. Nevermind that Morrisey brought ad pages up 34 percent through September in an industry where that type of thing is usually rewarded with use of the corporate jet. Burgess, meanwhile, left her SVP spot Niche Media in March, where she landed after publisher gigs at House & Garden and Elle.
So what does all of this say? Common wisdom might suggest Brownridge selected Toepfer and Burgess because he got them on the cheap — in an effort to reduce owner Richard Desmond's growing fears of having sunk too much cash into his American tabloid spinoff. But Brownridge can often be overheard spewing his arithmetic model: The tabloid business is full of fixed costs (printing, checkout aisle pockets, photos), and any publisher knows those costs before getting into the game, so it makes zero sense to skimp on the talent, who are responsible for trying to fashion OK! into a leader among the competition. That is: Cutting costs over staffers doesn't make much sense.
Oh, and all this nonsense about Brownridge trying to woo Bonnie Fuller with that consulting gig? Apparently not much truth to it.
Despite OK! publicist Brian Strong's insistence that everything at the tabloid was A-, uh, OK, the ushering in of Kent Brownridge has brought real turmoil. Two weeks ago we told you executive editor Rob Shuter had been fired, but the tabloid tried playing it off as a "resignation." And today, on a news dump Friday, editor-in-chief Sarah Ivens hand delivers to Keith Kelly her own "voluntary resignation" — she'll be gone by Christmas, she says, and insists she made the decision in June before Brownridge ever showed up — which only fuels speculation that Brownridge is looking to team up with a one Bonnie Fuller, who was editing Us Weekly back when he was Jann Wenner's No. 2 at Wenner Media, to fill the top slot at OK!.
Oh, and if this series of coincidences isn't enough for you — the same day Ivens silver-platters her exit scoop to Kelly, an "anonymous source" tells Page Six that OK! that owner Richard Desmond & Co. are turning off the endless cash stream that's kept the American tabloid afloat since its inception three years ago. Shocking!
If Ivens is the plant on that one — and all sources point to a strong possibility — what a nice send-off it is to paint OK! as a tabloid in peril, with tightened purse strings and no cash on hand to pay for big photo exclusives.
Oh, and one final dig: CONTINUED »
Within a week of Kent Brownridge arriving at OK!, executive editor Rob Shuter was ousted, and senior writer Laura Schreffler, formerly of the Daily News, quit. The tabloid has tried spinning the news to Keith Kelly as an "everything is fine" scenario.
It isn't. Since Brownridge's arrival, we've heard there's much turmoil at the tabloid, despite OK! publicist Brian Strong's assertions otherwise.
When Richard Desmond brought Brownridge in to head the magazine — even editor-in-chief Sarah Ivens reports to Kent — he likely had little idea just how much calamity there would be. But staffers are picking sides, and most are sticking with the home team; Brownridge is seen as the outsider installed to right a not-exactly-sinking-ship. One source tells us the feeling inside HQ is that his hire was done more so because he needed a job, not because OK! had a place for him. And you didn't hear it from us, but there's already an informal office pool going on how long he'll last.
Oh, and also, Keith: CONTINUED »
After leaving Jann Wenner's side as the publishing maestro's No. 2, Kent Brownridge went over to Maxim, after private equity firm Quadrangle bought it and Blender from Dennis Publishing, renamed its parent Alpha Media, and appointed Brownridge leader of the lad mags. Then, heh, he got sacked last month amidst investor unhappiness. But it's not like Brownridge is just going to comb over and play dead — he's got a new gig. Richard Desmond, he of the British publishing empire Northern Shell, hired Brownridge to lead his American tabloid OK!. So much trust Desmond has in Brownridge, he's having founding and sitting EIC Sarah Ivens and publisher Tom Morrissy begin reporting to him. But it's not just that Brownridge has found another last act that firms up his shock and awe campaign — it's that his gig at OK! means he's in direct competition with his former buddy Wenner, whose Obama-leaning media empire publishes the tabloid Us Weekly. And that is awesome. How to make this do-si-do even more interesting? Mr. Brownridge: Might we suggest you getting firmly behind a one John McCain?
The first public photos of Knox and Vivienne Jolie-Pitt have already been taken! And, despite our suggestion to nobody in particular that Brad and Angelina split their newborn twins into two separate photo shoots to really maximize profit potential, the babies were photographed together.
But the babies will be split up in one sense: People magazine has secured North American rights to the photos, while British tabloid Hello!, which sports numerous international editions, will have other worldwide rights.
Sound familiar? That's because People and Hello! teamed up in 2006 to publish Brangelina's other baby, Shiloh.
In the end, the price is pegged somewhere between $11 and $15 million, though that could be off by as much as a multiple of two. And while the price is certainly one for the record books (for now), keep in mind that the price includes two babies; so really, we're talking bargain.
Not that it's any consolation to OK! publisher Richard Desmond. CONTINUED »
There's this rumor going around that OK! magazine owner Richard Desmond is hiring Bonnie Fuller, she being the former American Media editorial director and Star leader, to run his American exclamation point tabloid.
Fuller, who just left a $2 million-plus payday with David Pecker, is starting her own company, Bonnie Fuller Media, which by all accounts is some sort of digital (and maybe some TV) venture with backing from former Viacom exec Russ Pillar.
The rumor says there are "protracted talks" between Fuller in Desmond, who is said to be looking for a high-profile EIC to replace Sarah Ivens, who's been running the tabloid since it launched on American shores. The U.S. OK!, which Desmond reportedly sunk $100 million into (though, because he pays in British pounds, he gets everything half off), has seen circulation increase, but not enough to really compete with more established players like In Touch or Us Weekly. Which might explain why we're also told Desmond made overtures to Us editor Janice Min, who declined.
So is Fuller taking over at OK!? No, say well-placed informants. But it's true Desmond did reach out to her.
Which leaves only one real question: CONTINUED »
After newsstand owners pressured Bauer to raise the cover prices of In Touch and Life & Style – which, based on the terms these checkout aisle pocket owners have with publishers, means they'll see a larger share of each sale – the tabloids faced backlash from readers in the form of fewer sales. Which means Richard Spencer's two tabloids are forced to cut their rate bases.
In Touch, though its total circ was 1,271,354 in the second half of 2007, hit its 1.2 million rate base, but is lowering its number guaranteed to advertisers to 1 million, down 17 percent.
Life & Style, which had circ of 681,723, missed its 700,000 rate base. It, too, is lowering its guarantee, down to 550,000, or 21 percent.
To be fair, the celeb weekly category, overall, has been slipping, thanks to heavy saturation and those damn gossip blogs. And Bauer has repeatedly inched up the rate bases of both tabloids since they launched; in many instances, In Touch beat veteran heavyweight competitors at the newsstand.
Us Weekly's circ, meanwhile, is up 2.7 percent to 1,005,081; total paid circ is up 10 percent to 1,928,852. OK! is up 24 percent, to 935,378. People will report a fall of 3.5 percent, to 3.7 million, while newsstand dropped 6 percent to 1.42 million. Star is expected to show a 3 or 4 percent dip in newsstand sales, to 713,000.
Meanwhile, even with the rate base cut, Bauer insists its now making more money, with the cover price hikes, than before. So they shouldn't be able to blame budget cuts, then, when explaining why this week's cover of Life & Style (above right) features Bragenlina's baby Shiloh in a blue sweater … that's actually an old photo of her, which appeared on Life & Style last month (above left), but flipped and color-swapped.
OK! magazine might be willing to reach deep into its pockets for scoops, but when it comes to the paper the tabloid is printed on, they're coming up empty.
If you'll take a gander at this week's issue, you'll notice the paper stock is lighter, which means the paper itself is thinner, and more prone to bleed-through. That's because the Northern & Shell mag downgraded its paper stock as a cost-cutting measure. (The more to ply you with, Jamie-Lynn.)
Not only might readers find the Richard Desmond-owned tabloid cheap, but advertisers are, too. And they're not happy.
In some issues of the magazine examined, full-page color ads are bleeding through to the opposite page, obscuring editorial, and vice versa. One such instance is a full-page Quaker ad for the brand's Sweet & Salty Crunch Granola Bars.
OK!'s Quaker account is a significant one: They've been advertising inside the magazine in every issue, we're told, and closed the account off to other celeb weeklies without much consideration. And that might make sense, since OK!'s Midwest ad sales director, Jeremy Greenspan, is married to a one Sarah Greenspan, who just happens to be the associate media director at Quaker's agency OMD in Chicago.
To be sure, nepotism in publishing and advertising isn't exactly surprising; relationships, whether platonic or otherwise, run this business.
But who, then, is looking out for Quaker when it comes to their crappy-looking advertising in OK!? The suits at PepsiCo might want to know.
Returning, for a moment, to all the attention paid to the latest ABC filings, with specific regard for the celebrity weeklies.
OK! magazine, from British lowest common denominator pioneer Richard Desmond, reported growth of 54.3 percent, with circulation jumping to over 800,000 and newsstand sales up 25.3 percent. That's roughly 160k behind Us Weekly and 83k more than Star.
Is the underdog's tail wagging yet?
• Sam Zell's new Tribune Co. will be hesitant to give away online content for free. Just like Pinch used to be!
• Why are so many folks hoping Conde Nast's $125 million Portfolio will bomb? We can think of one hundred twenty five million reasons.
Many of us think about getting wasted, grabbing our shot-guns, and going Cheney on a fair amount of people in the media industry. (We are also positive that we've been on the other end of that shooting fantasy at some point.)
But Simon Dumenco throws down today, going on an all-out proverbial spree, and shooting down a select few medialites, who he would like to hear apologize for their "horrific mishaps."
Dumenco's hit-list ranges from Graydon Carter to Atoosa Rubenstein, with a select few in between. Drunken journalists really do make the Mondays brighter!
The list of people who owe SD a "my bad," or two, after the jump. Yes, it's long, and yes, it's freakin' hilarious, but please note these views are in no way the views and opinions of Jossip. (Except for the speculation regarding Scarlett Johansson's "please help me" plea.)
Writes in a concerned reader (that just made our day, and possibly our week):
I heard that the American version of OK Magazine has been having lots of financial problems. Do you know if they have gone out of business? I didn't recieve this week's issue in the mail. Do you know how I can get in touch with OK?
Fortunately, this reader is in luck. Subscriber inquiries should be directed to 1-800-284-4438. Be sure to ask for Sarah Ivens, and how her marriage is doing.
We're suckers for anything OK!-related, mostly because we're jealous of their interminable budget. You can bet your ass we'd be paying for stories if we could afford it, but alas, all our profits are reinvested into stalking Jake Gyllenhaal.
Then mix in Britney Spears and, well, it's a Molotov cocktail for our soul. And Lloyd Grove isn't just lighting the rag — he's throwing the bottle.
So Brit's camp wasn't too pleased when they learned editrix Sarah Ivens & Co. were planning to a run a not so pleasant story on Kevin Federline, who's parenting abilities aren't exactly rivaling Kate Moss' (then again, who can?).
But Ivens – or, more accurately, publisher Richard Desmond – isn't about to pass up an opportunity to grab the first pics of baby Sean Preston, so what's a celebrity rag in bed with the celebrity industry to do?
Change the story, natch.
"We started out making Kevin look like a real a-," reports an OK! insider. "Britney's people were not happy with the angle, so the story was changed a bit to reflect a happier married life. The tone became softer, the focus changed."
OK! even caved on the accompanying poll, changing the original question, "Should Britney forgive Kevin?" to "Should Britney and Kevin get a nanny?"
Says the spy, "It's ridiculous! We let up on Kevin a whole hell of a lot. It's just to stay in Brit's graces to maybe one day get those f-ing baby pics."
Now why don't we just leave the K-Fed bashing to the blogs, shall we? We've got the time and celeb weeklies, after all, need to refocus their attention on Jennifer Aniston crying.
• Richard Desmond should know letting the bills slide isn't "OK." The porn-cum-gossip peddler is facing a potential lawsuit from Splash News thanks to five months of unpaid bills.
• Maybe if Gear magazine outsourced its ad sales staff a la Breathe, Bob Guccione Jr. wouldn't be stuck toiling with Discover.
• Since you long ago threw out Jack Welch's guide to Winning and will wait no longer for Steve Florio, it's time for the latest media mogul memoir. Look forward to Hearst prez Cathy Black's management tome, where we'll learn how to run the least sexy publishing house. Well, second to E.W. Scripps, anyhow.
• Where Yahoo hired Kevin Sites as a war blogger, AOL is boosting its own content business with a video-on-demand celeb journalism series promising the continued overexposure of Paris Hilton and Tom Cruise.
• With product placements becoming central to TV show plotlines, it's only a matter of time before Eva Longoria's characters starts sleeping with a Rokr phone.
• The Wall Street Journal waved goodbye to Joanne Lipman – who's taking off to head up Conde Nast's business division – complete with pretzels, wine and cheese. Extravagance is never spared.
• NYU is boosting its journalism faculty by 60 percent, adding 12 new faculty members that might have an inkling how this media business works.
And the winner of the Britney Spears baby photo race is .. OK!
As we told you on Wednesday, Richard Desmond's attempt at an American tabloid takeover reportedly offered $2 million to Brit and K-Fed for snaps of newborn Preston. Now the mag is saying they've secured rights.
Well, that's what Desmond told Access Hollywood and, ever the investigative journalists, they sent reporter Tim Vincent to quiz OK! editor Sarah Ivens. Hoping to lure her into talking, he told her of his chat with Desmond, to which she replied:
"Has he? He's a rascal," she smiled. "Well, Richard's my boss so he can say that if he wants to."
Sure he can. Unless, you know, he hasn't secured the rights.
• The Non-Comforter in Chief Bill O'Reilly opines that the government of the United States cannot help you in times of disaster. Bill's advice to America (to the poor of New Orleans, especially): Educate yourself and get a well-paying job. Missing from that counseling? Any advice on how one finds a proper education or a job. Even Newt Gingrich told Loofah Boy that his theory was "un-American."
• The New York Times, in an attempt to get serious about being funny, will bring comics to its pages. But let's call it a graphic novel, shall we?
• If Radar can do it, so can Seed. The indie science-and-society title is back with $12 million in funding after a year's hiatus.
• Google buying Reuters? As if we needed another reason to distrust either.
• Speaking of, Vanity Fair's Power List-icle puts Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page at the top, ahead of even Wal-Mart's chief.
• Richard Desmond has brought over Melanie Danks to fill in the publisher gap at American OK! left by Gabriel "Gaby" Fireman's sudden departure. Meanwhile, the nicknamed staffing continues with former Us Weekly exec editor (and former U.K. OK! EIC) Nicola "Nic" McCartney becoming American OK!'s editor in April.
Gone is publisher Gabriel "Gaby" Fireman on the heels of ad pages dropping from 20 at launch to just 10 in the most recent issues. Even the interns, notorious for their perpetual cheeriness, are worried their gift bag supply might be limited.
Having already spent $10 million of the $100 million (over six years) advertising campaign for the U.S. version of OK!, publisher Richard Desmond is looking at dismal returns — and he can't even blame Sarah Ivens.
Desmond promised advertisers a 350,000 rate base but the celeb rag has been seriously underdelivering .. by as much as two-thirds. With two issues out so far, only about one-tenth of the 1.3 million copies printed have been picked up by those defecting from Star and Us Weekly.
Desmond's camp is remaining tight-lipped about how their title is actually performing and, unlike its paid-for coverage, claims those circ figures are entirely academic.
We hadn't been aware that Britain's Independent was actually just a facade for Richard Desmond's press releases, and then we read U.S. OK! editor Ian Burrell's masturbatory "article" on how "the Stateside launch of Richard Desmond's OK! threatens to revolutionise the US celebrity magazine market."
Apparently, the American OK! is the "the one all New York's talking about." He neglects to mention it's the one we've all been "talking about" in very, very sarcastic tones.
But let's entertain Burrell's straight-faced attempt at saving face, shall we? He wants ya'll to know about his real life Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Ivens, who he's billing as
acting out a scene from Sex and the City where Carrie walks through Manhattan and sees her picture on an advertisement on the side of a New York bus.
She so Carrie, in fact, that after the debut Jessica Simpson issue closed, she didn't go home — she went out on the town! Like a real New Yorker!
Except that it was "out on the town"-ish.
Says Ivens: "I told Robert Earl, who owns the Planet Hollywood chain, that it was my 30th birthday and I didn't know what to do, and he said, 'Well, have the fourth floor,'" she says. "He was fabulous - he generously threw me an Eighties disco in Planet Hollywood with free food and free cocktails all night. Some of my friends flew over from London; the staff were there; my husband and my friends from New York. It was really good fun and we partied all night."
At. Planet. Hollywood. Which isn't so much Carrie Bradshaw as it is Lisa Douglas with vertigo.