I've been running The Other Blog for about five months now and I have learned to spot the subtle differences among The Only Ten Magazines That Matter. I've also done a little research into the business of supermarket magazines and the truth is... they don't matter. At least not as much as they once did.
The Big Winner. Currently, People magazine sells nearly four million copies a week. No other supermarket rag sells half that much. People is owned by Time Inc., who does not own any other magazine regularly found on the checkout counter. They do have a teen version and a country version of People, but in the supermarkets where I shop, those are in the magazine rack.
People almost always talks to its subjects, so it really doesn't count as gossip. They actually broke the Heidi Montag surgery story with Heidi going on the record. They also had Heidi's mom on the record saying she hated the idea. This is the way they come in on two sides of a "controversy", by talking to people on both sides. So far, they have been on Kate Gosselin's side and haven't talked to Jon at all this year. (No one is even mentioning Jon anymore, but many magazines have decided they hate Kate.) The editors at People don't use anonymous sources, at least not for stories on the cover.
The Big Loser. American Media Inc. (AMI for short) publishes all the supermarket rags on newsprint, National Enquirer, Sun, Globe and National Examiner, and one of the glossy magazines, the Star, which Rupert Murdoch started in 1974 to compete with the Enquirer and sold to AMI in 1990. In its heyday of the 1970s and 1980s, the Enquirer sold about six million copies a week. It now sells about 1.2 million, and the Star about 1.4 million. TV gossip shows stole a lot of the magazine's thunder about thirty years ago, and Internet gossip is picking on the bones today. AMI owns Radar Online, which is significantly less popular than its major rival TMZ.com.
British gossip rags have much more market penetration in their smaller market than American tabs today, so AMI brought Brits in to run things in the 1990s and 2000s with disastrous results. The Globe and Examiner are reduced to leaking gossip about people who were famous before I graduated high school, stories I call Hey Old Timer Gossip on The Other Blog. All the supermarket rags that aren't covering old timer gossip have decided that Reality TV is their bread and butter, so much so that major gossip stories in other venues, like the legal troubles of starlet Lindsay Lohan and Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger get no coverage at all. Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor's arrest for rape probably wouldn't have been worth mentioning in the supermarket rags except that he was on Dancing With The Stars last year.
Until I did a little research, I assumed the supermarket rags knew what they were doing covering the stories they covered, but clearly they haven't a clue on how to survive. Publishing only once a week means they can't keep up with TV or Internet sources, and though Murdoch quit the weekly gossip business with his tail between his legs twenty years ago, his New York Post gossip section Page Six often gets stories that go national, usually when they are being denied by the participants.
Still, I'm going to keep my other blog going. After all, without the tabloids, how will I be able to find out when the world will end? Well, I could read The San Francisco Chronicle, but it's pretty much at the level of supermarket rag since the Komodo Dragon Happy Meal Phil Bronstein took the helm.