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An Inside Look at People Magazine

Ever wonder how the weekly celebrity and human-interest magazine, People, gets put together? How is the cover decided? And, more importantly, who really chooses “The Sexiest Man Alive” and the “Most Beautiful People?”

The editorial manager, Andy Abrahams, is one key member of that team and he came to speak at the BU College of Communication this week. He gave us the scoop about the magazine that provides the inside info on celebrities.

In 1985, Abrahams started as a reporter and worked his way up to his current position. He has seen the good and the bad, and has witnessed a lot of change in the magazine industry. Now People not only puts out a weekly magazine, but also has a special iPad edition and updates its website daily. All of this has occurred while the number of staff members has been downsized and the company consolidated to one bureau in Los Angeles.
“The newsstand and what we put on the cover drives the magazine,” Abrahams said. People has a mass audience of 3.6 million readers and it strives to cater to the preferences of each one of them. “You can’t just put anyone on the cover,” he explained. “Most of America needs to have a fondness for this person or the person has to be relatable.”

At an astonishing 54 times, Princess Dianna holds the title for most People covers and you can bet the new royal bride-to-be, Kate Middleton, will stack up her own share in the near future.

Like most other celebrity news organizations, you can expect to find stories on body, style, weight loss, weddings, and babies within the pages of People, but Abrahams claims his magazine does differentiate itself from the tabloids: “In many cases we have access to the stars’ photos and interviews because we try to make this a place where they can go to tell their story in a way that is inviting and looks good.”

People is also known for doing more news stories than its tabloid competitors. “Our 9-11 edition was the biggest seller in People history,” Abrahams said. “More than 4 millions copies were sold, which is unbelievable. It was a difficult story all around, but it was one we knew we had to tell.”

When using sources, People always tries to name the person or at least explain his or her connection to the celebrity rather than just say the information came from “an insider.” Abrahams also divulged that his magazine would never pay for information or access to it. “That is what good reporting is,” he said. Celebrities often turn to be People when they have something to reveal because “it is a place that is friendly and not snarky.”

The trouble arises in maintaining that exclusivity, however, because as the famous
goes, information wants to be free and protecting it “becomes its own little war effort,” according to Abrahams.

To end his lecture, he offered advice for aspiring magazine journalists that can be applied to interning or starting off in any profession. “A lot of times you are not in the place you really dream to be, but while you are there, make it seem as if that is your dream job,” Abrahams said. “Because that person who hired you, you want them to be able to say, that was a really great intern.” 

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