Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Reality Programming for Magazines

Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Reality Programming for Magazines

Article excerpt

Consumer titles are engineering celebrity challenges--Gwyneth Paltrow stranded on a desert island for three days or Julia Roberts on a blind date--as an alternative to standard starlet fare.

Call it the print version of reality TV--or just the next lurch down a slope that has already been made plenty slippery by magazines' seemingly insatiable appetite for all things celebrity. In the intensely competitive race to slap famous faces on their covers, consumer magazines are raising the bar on star coverage by staging "Survivor"-like events that seek to pique the interest of celebrities and readers alike.

That's why, instead of simply interviewing Jenna Elfman about her role on "Dharma & Greg," Marie Claire sent her on a real gig with actual firefighters. And Seventeen didn't just publish your run-of-the-mill Q&A with Mandy Moore, star of the television show "Mandy." The magazine set her up on a blind date.

"We're just trying to be innovative and do something that's original," says Glenda Bailey, editor in chief of Marie Claire. "Personally, I can't bear a celebrity doing exactly the same interview and giving exactly the same quote in every single magazine for a movie that's about to come out. We're trying to give our readers something interesting and unique to talk about."

Thus, Marie Claire helped kick off this new editorial genre a few years ago by sending actress Gwyneth Paltrow into isolation on a desert island for three days and nights, "[prepared only by] a training course in her backyard for five hours," as Bailey puts it. "She was instructed in basic survival techniques and given a rope and a knife ... and a camera." A rescue boat waited patiently offshore. The magazine featured Paltrow's "journal" and photos in a big spread.

Since then, Marie Claire has also arranged and written about a blind date between a real bookstore owner and actress Julia Roberts, reminiscent of the plot of the movie "Notting Hill." Last December, it dropped the three stars of the movie "Charlie's Angels"--Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore--at the Boulder Outdoor Survival School, without tents, water, food or cell phones. The magazine then sent them on what amounted to a testy obstacle course that involved climbing mountains, moving through "stagnant" water and spelunking through caves. Each actress wrote about the experience for the magazine. …

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