People may abandon its weekly print edition as its new owner seeks to cut costs – although writers privately complain that the magazine’s new editor seems like an awkward choice for the celebrity gossip icon, a learned The Post
People staffers – a 48-year-old in grocery store checkout lines, beauty salons and doctor’s offices known for his “Sexiest Man Alive” cover – are preparing for the magazine to go online only After Dotdash Meredith, a unit of billionaire Barry Diller’s IAC shut down a slew of print publications, sources familiar with the matter said.
These include Entertainment Weekly and fashion magazine InStyle, which once generated profits and was filled with advertising pages. The People, meanwhile, are likely to get the ax despite claiming the biggest audience of any American magazine for nearly a decade until 2018 when it ceded the title to AARP.
“I think it’s screwed up,” a well-placed source said of People’s weekly edition. The source added that executives are instead considering monthly or quarterly editions, as well as special theme issues that have a much higher cover price.
The Post also learned that DotDash Meredith executives quietly reduced People’s circulation from 3.4 million to 2.5 million, as well as the number of pages per magazine from about eight. An insider explained that the subscriptions that have been cut are free or low-cost subscriptions that do not justify the price of sending the numbers.
Dotdash Meredith’s spokesperson said: “Apart from People magazine’s rate base change from 3.4 million to 2.5 million – which was shared with advertisers in April this year – and a temporary change the total number of pages due to the international paper shortage, the claims and figures provided by an anonymous source for this story are completely false.
“People magazine will continue to be published weekly, as it has for nearly 50 years, and will benefit from the significant investments we continue to make in the People brand and products,” the spokesperson added.
While talks about frequency changes are ongoing and no decision has been made, insiders are concerned about People’s editorial disarray under the magazine’s new editor-in-chief. Liz Vaccariello, who replaced Dan Wakeford amid a reorganization in February. Vaccariello, who has held high-profile roles at Real Simple, Parents, Reader’s Digest and Every Day with Rachael Ray, fills the magazine with “sweet stories,” a source said.
“The new editor doesn’t know what she’s doing. Staff members at editorial meetings text each other and roll their eyes when she speaks,” the source added.
“Liz is a very talented writer, but she’s not an entertainment writer,” said another insider, who explained that Vaccariello doesn’t have any “connections” in entertainment or a sense of what’s going on. sells celebrity news magazines.
“She didn’t know who Channing Tatum was!” says the source.
Insiders cited a recent incident in which People staffers pushed to get Jada Pinkett-Smith for a recent magazine cover after her husband Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock onstage at the Oscars for the joke. Rock on his alopecia.
The incident rocked the entertainment industry and made headlines around the world, but Vaccariello put it down and instead opted to stay with current cover star Bindi Irwin, the daughter of the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin.
This issue is currently on newsstands, and while it’s too early to see how it will sell, The Post has learned that People’s newsstand numbers have dropped since Wakeford was let go in February.
Sources told the Post that under Wakeford, People sold more than 200,000 newsstand copies per week. Newsstand sales since then have been spotty, with a May 2 cover of Prince Harry falling to around 160,000 copies sold, and a March 14 cover of Lizzo reaching between 125,000 and 150,000 copies sold, which would be the one of the worst sales problems in popular history in half a century.
But an informed source countered that Vaccariello also had some of the best-selling issues this year, pointing to Will Smith’s April 11 cover and Bruce Willis’ April 18 cover, both of which sold over 220,000 copies each. .
People are always said to be “profitable” by knowledgeable sources, but IAC executives have nonetheless taken aggressive steps to cut costs. Insiders said they are now focusing on a litany of issues that had nothing to do with People’s change of publisher. These include falling advertising revenue and declining circulation, rising postage rates and a shortage of paper.
“The IAC people are not nice. Barry Diller is not nice,” said a source, who noted that the new owner “doesn’t understand” print magazines, all they want to do is “make money”.
The company has also shut down The Shining’s struggling TV show PeopleTV, as The Post exclusively reports.
The source added that there has been a jarring clash of corporate cultures between Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith and Diller’s IAC, which is headquartered in the trendy Meatpacking District in New York.
“People from Meredith show up to meetings at Crocs. Their offices have wicker furniture,” the source said. “You can’t go to Barry Diller’s Frank Gehry-designed spaceship in Crocs. IAC is like “The Matrix”. There is no furniture and you are greeted by people wearing Prada.
During the pandemic, People’s ad revenue has halved, according to a knowledgeable source. The source said advertising has dropped to around $125 million a year in print, with digital advertising bringing in another $125 million.
However, according to People’s press kit, the brand has 118 million consumers across print, digital and social media.
Employees began talking about People’s potential demise when a handful of publishing and marketing executives left the company after DotDash took the helm. They included People Group publisher Carery Witmer and People magazine publisher Cece Ryan, both of whom focused on selling print and digital advertisements.
Their departures signaled to many that Dotdash may be following a similar playbook for People as he has with other Meredith publications. Earlier this year, the company killed the print editions of Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, EatingWell, Health, Parents and People en Español.
At the time, Dotdash Meredith CEO Neil Vogel told staff that the move would help transform publications into digital-only brands. He also said the move would result in around 200 job cuts.
“We said from the start that buying Meredith was about buying brands, not magazines or websites,” Vogel said in his memo. “It is no news to anyone that there has been a pronounced shift in readership and advertising from print to digital, and as a result for a few major brands print no longer serves the purpose. principal of the brand.”
During the pandemic, the decline in print readership and advertising has been more pronounced than ever. Oprah’s O magazine went out of print in 2020, and women’s magazine Marie Claire ended its print run after 27 years in 2021.
Over the past three years, Hearst has cut the frequencies of magazines like Elle and Cosmopolitan while Condé Nast has cut the frequencies of Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines amid declining readership and advertising revenue.
Vogel said in February his company would invest in its 19 remaining print magazines — which include People, Better Homes & Gardens and Southern Living — by improving paper quality and trim sizes.
But strategies are changing fast in the media, and critics have whispered that Meredith’s acquisition by IAC, a company known for its digital brands, likely spelled the end for its brilliance down the line.
“Barry Diller bought Meredith to sell,” a well-placed source said. “He always does them [the brands] leaner and more profitable, so he resells it.