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So which of the weeklies won the war of words in covering Paris Hilton's release from jail - People or Us Weekly?

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FINAL WORD: So which of the weeklies won the war of words in covering Paris Hilton's release from jail — People or Us Weekly? According to the newsstand performance, it's pretty much a draw. People covered the Hilton story exhaustively, landing an exclusive interview with the heiress after she was released from jail on June 26 and featured the fresh-faced Hilton in a seven-page spread in the magazine. The New York Post reported the magazine was willing to pay $300,000 to Getty Images for photo rights, but the deal was eventually scrapped, and People paid no money for the interview or for photos. Us Weekly, meanwhile, decided to boycott the story both in the magazine and on its Web site, putting a photo portfolio of Hollywood babies on its cover instead. (Us Weekly reportedly offered to donate money to charity in exchange for an interview, but Hilton's camp declined.)

People's gamble seemingly paid off — according to sources familiar with scan data, its July 9 issue sold more than 1.5 million copies and was one of the top 10 best-selling issues for the first half of the year. A spokesman for Us Weekly declined to comment on its numbers, but an Us Weekly source said its July 9 issue sold above average on newsstand. Through December 2006, Us Weekly sold 978,285 single copies per week, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

"I'm pleased. It came in right where it was supposed to be," said Larry Hackett, People's managing editor.

Hackett still felt it was important to go big with the Hilton story, though it had been exhaustively covered by various Web sites and television news outlets by the time People's Hilton interview hit newsstands on June 29. "She was what people were talking about, and that‘s where we want to be," explained Hackett. "I said the same thing a year ago, with the Shiloh [Jolie-Pitt] baby pictures." People reportedly paid $4.1 million for the exclusive domestic rights to those photos; the issue was its highest seller of the year.

"You make decisions about the issue, but you also make decisions on a long-term idea. Whether you love this person or hate this person, you still say this is a long-term [decision]. Months from now people will remember we had the interview with Paris Hilton," said Hackett.
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