The New York Review of Magazines

Celebrity Weeklies As Serial Novels?

By Zachary Sniderman

One of the biggest challenges to modern print serialization is, unsurprisingly, the Internet. A reader looking for celebrity gossip can just type “Tiger Woods” into and get whatever info they want, bypassing print entirely. Heck, they might even be directed to the (incredibly robust) websites of People, Us Weekly or Star. Other online “gossip wires” such as TMZ or Perez Hilton sometimes beat celebrity weeklies to the punch. They are, however, fighting a different fight.

Aggregation websites and gossip wires actually help celebrity weeklies stand out as a genre. The Internet is about speed and news. The printed form is about narrative and longevity. Different magazines, such as our test-subject triumvirate – People, Us Weekly, Star – cultivate unique narrative arcs that draw readers in by how each story is told.

People’s stories touch on Tiger’s anxiety and Elin’s pain. Us Weekly ran with a story titled, “Picking Up The Pieces.” Theirs is a story of brilliant recovery, two beautiful, talented people struggling against a world of pressure to make it work. The story ends with an optimistic line, “As for whether the pair can repair their shattered relations, one source is hopeful, printing the headline, ‘Love is there.’”

That Us Weekly story is followed next week (the same week as a People story titled “Was It Enough”) with a full page that states: “Can one public apology make up for nearly three months of heartbreak? The answer appears to be yes.” Us Weekly keeps up the hopeful message. They applaud Woods’ reconciliatory speech and suggest it’s exactly what Elin needed to hear to forgive him. Star, the rebel of the group, swings out to the other side of the spectrum claiming, in the same week, that “Tiger Cheating Again!”

The individual narrative arcs make the stories more than just “information,” territory already owned by aggregators like Google. People writes about two wounded people wondering if they can love. Us Weekly writes about a couple fixing a relationship destroyed by circumstance. And Star, well, Star’s just getting started…

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