THE EARLY NUMBERS: With the estimated 30 million to 40 million U.S. viewers who were expected to tune into Michael Jackson’s memorial service Tuesday morning, it’s no surprise the celebrity weeklies also are seeing a bounce in newsstand sales from coverage of the King of Pop’s death. Multiple sources with access to scan data said early estimates show the entire category reported strong sales last week. People, whose best-selling issues have covered the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy Jr., is on track to sell 2.8 million copies of its Michael Jackson tribute issue. Time Inc. published special editions of People last week with different back covers of the singer, one of a younger Jackson, the other from his adult years, that will be on newsstands through next week. If the estimate holds, the issue will have sold more than the Aug. 8, 2008, issue of baby photos of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s twins, Knox Léon and Vivienne Marcheline, and will have topped the Dec. 22, 1980, issue covering the death of John Lennon.
Us Weekly is on track to sell about 1.2 million copies of its issue with Jackson and two of his children on its cover with the cover line “His Final Days.” That would beat its average weekly sale for the year so far of 860,000 copies, and is also close to sales of Us Weekly’s best-selling story line this year surrounding Jon and Kate Gosselin’s disintegrating marriage.
Bauer Publishing’s In Touch sold more than one million copies of last week’s issue, which featured a split cover with Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. But sister title Life & Style used Jackson as the main cover image and sold 600,000 copies last week, a strong seller for the title.
Meanwhile, OK magazine caused controversy last week when it reportedly spent $500,000 to buy the image of a lifeless Jackson being loaded into an ambulance for its cover, a move most considered in poor taste. Figuring the cover would spark interest, OK increased its newsstand draw to 1.4 million, said sources outside of the magazine. However, early estimates forecast the issue will sell 550,000 copies, or just 100,000 more than its average weekly sale. Despite the less-than-bankable results, sources at competing titles said OK will spend another $200,000 to buy exclusive images of Jackson at home with his children for next week’s issue.
Star opted to forgo a Jackson cover, instead using an old tabloid favorite — the best and worst of celebrity beach bodies. Certainly some readers welcomed the cheeky reprieve: The issue sold a respectable 800,000 copies. — Stephanie D. Smith