Was Kim Kardashian's Wedding Worth $1.5 Million?

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People Magazine's eye-popping $1.5 million purchase of exclusive photo rights to Kim Kardashian's wedding to New Jersey Nets player Kris Humphries is being heralded as a success for the weekly publication in today’s downward sliding magazine market. But in order to make the pricey gamble pay off, the magazine had to get a little sneaky with its readers.

The Kardashian wedding issue, which hit newsstands Aug. 24, sold about 1.5 million copies, a 31 percent increase over the current sales average of 1.15 million. That's especially impressive, considering that the three previous covers -- featuring Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock and the Bachelorette -- all sold under the average. This comes during a hard time for the weekly, which experienced a 10.5 percent drop in newsstand sales to 1.2 million for the first half of 2011, causing the perennial No. 2 newsstand seller to fall behind both Cosmopolitan and Women’s World in sales according to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulation’s magazine figures.

The magazine's secret weapon was a 25 percent cover price increase ($4.99 versus the regular $3.99). So the extra 350,000 copies sold delivered an extra $350,000 right away. However, since a weekly mass publication only recoups about $2 on every newsstand sale, the mag needed to have sold an extra 750,000 copies to get back their $1.5 million investment in total. Also, online readers were offered a $1 off coupon for a future issue, which will cost the glossy in upcoming sales.
Weddings are big business for the celebrity weeklies. The royal wedding gave People sales numbers of over 2 million (with free photos) and the wedding of Reese Witherspoon (those picture were purchased as well) earlier this year sold 1.3 million. By contrast, celebrity babies, the natural follow-up to celebrity weddings, have been a bit of a bust. The year's major baby covers -- John Travolta's new baby, Nicole Kidman's secret baby and Christina Applegate's first baby -- all underperformed.