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American Media group

Table of contents 

This page considers US tabloid publisher American Media Inc (AMI).


It covers -

  • introduction
  • holdings
  • studies
  • chronology

Introduction

Boca Raton-based American Media Inc (AMI) publishes six of the US largest circulation weeklies, including the National Enquirer and Star - famed for headlines such as "Mom Boils Baby and Eats It", Miss America in Weird Cult - Brainwashed Members Even 'Baa' Like Sheep," "Dolly's Breasts are Killing Her," "Madonna Stole My Lesbian Lover". Most distribution is from supermarkets.

The waves of cash from trash about alien visitations, cute puppies, horoscopes and "personality journalism" treats have enabled acquisition of health and fitness magazine publisher Weider Publications, with imprints that include Men's Fitness, Muscle & Fitness Hers, Natural Health and Fit Pregnancy.

Other AMI titles include country music magazine Country Weekly, Latino entertainment magazines ¡Mira! and Thalia, and auto magazines AMI's Auto World and NOPI Street Performance Compact. The group has around 200 'mini-mags' covering family, finance, food, diet, health, home, pets and relationships.

Its holdings include Distribution Services, Inc., an in-store magazine merchandising company. AMI has a small book division.

AMI traces its history to the New York Enquirer, acquired by the zany Generoso (Gene) Pope Jr (1927-88) in 1952 for US$75,000. Pope's father (1891-1950) was a political powerbroker and quarry magnate whose Italian-American newspaper interests included the Correire d'America and daily Il Progresso Italo-Americano. He had also acquired New York radio station WHOM from Gardner Cowles in 1946.

The Enquirer purchase was supposedly assisted with a loan from crime figure Frank Costello. An FBI report on Pope Jr drily notes that he was dining with Costello at the Monsignore Restaurant when the latter was shot to death. In 1954 Pope revamped the format from a broadsheet to a tabloid, renaming it the National Enquirer

Pope ramped up circulation in competition with exploitationist publishers such as Bernarr MacFadden, a character almost as strange as Pope. He moved the Enquirer to Florida in 1971, moving away from unashamed gore to 'exposes' as part of a shift from newstand to supermarket distribution. He died in 1988. American Media (which included The Enquirer, Weekly World News, Star and magazine distributor Distribution Services) was auctioned to a joint venture between Macfadden Publishing and Boston Ventures for US$412 million.

Macfadden control resulted in a significant increase in cash flow (from US$18 million pa in 1989 to US$96 million in 1999) and launch of new titles, such as Soap Opera News and Country Weekly. Lagging circulation saw sale to Evercore Partners (a New York-based private equity investor headed by Roger Altman and Austin Beutner) and former Hachette executive David Peck.

AMI subsequently acquired competitor Globe Communications Corp. and the publishing assets of Globe International Inc for US$105 million, followed by health & fitness publisher Weider. The Globe deal included Globe Marketing Services, the Globe, National Examiner, Sun, Mini Mags and Lifestyle Specials, Cracked and The Detective series).

Holdings

Holdings include

  • National Enquirer
  • Star
  • The Globe
  • National Examiner
  • Weekly World News
  • Country Weekly
  • ¡Mira!
  • Thalia
  • AMI's Auto World
  • NOPI Street Performance Compact
  • MPH (Maximum Performance Horsepower)
  • Shape
  • Shape En Espanol
  • Men's Fitness
  • Fit Pregnancy
  • Flex
  • Natural Health
  • Muscle & Fitness
  • Muscle & Fitness Hers

Studies

For the Enquirer see Iain Calder's memoir The Untold Story: My 20 Years Running The National Enquirer (New York: Miramax 2004).

Other works include George Bernard's Inside The National Inquirer (Port Washington: Ashley 1977), I Watched A Wild Hog Eat My Baby! - A Colorful History of Tabloids and Their Cultural Impact (Amherst: Prometheus 2001) by Bill Sloan, For Enquiring Minds: A Cultural Study of Supermarket Tabloids (Knoxville: Uni of Tennessee Press 1999) by Elizabeth Bird and the deliciously neomarxist Grossed-Out Surgeon Vomits Inside Patient! An Insider's Look at Supermarket Tabloids (Venice: Feral House 1997) by Jim Hogshire.

Context is provided by Jeannette Walls' Dish: How Gossip Became The News & The News Became Just Another Show (New York: Perennial 2000), Scandal: A Scurrilous History of Gossip (New York: Atlantic 2002) by Roger Wilkes, Scorpion Tongues: Gossip, Celebrity, and American Politics (New York: Morrow 1998) by Gailand Collins, Media Scandals: Morality & Desire in the Popular Culture Marketplace (New York: Columbia Uni Press 1998) edited by James Lull & Stephen Hinerman and How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World (London: Fourth Estate 2004) by Francis Wheen. There is a shorter but more thoughtful account in Tabloid Journalism & the Public Sphere (txt) by Anna Maria Jönsson & Henrik Örnebring.

Tabloid Journalism: An Annotated Bibliography of English-language Sources (Westport: Greenwood 1996) by Gerald Greenberg is of particular value.

Other insider accounts include Scooped! (New York: Columbia Uni Press 1999) by David Krajicek, and Sally Taylor's interviews in Shock! Horror!: the Tabloids in Action (London: Bantam 1991).

Landmarks

Context is provided by the broader communications and media timeline on this site.

1946 Generoso Pope buys New York station WHOM from Gardner Cowles' Atlantic Broadcasting

1952 Generoso Pope Jr acquires New York Enquirer, founds American Media Inc

1954 Joe Azaria and John Vader publish tabloid Midnight, precursor of the Globe

1974 Murdoch fails to acquire Enquirer, launches National Star in competition

1975 Pope sells WHOM to San Juan Racing Association

1979 launch of Weekly World News

1988 AMI auctioned to MacFadden and Boston Ventures joint venture on death of Generoso Pope

1999 AMI ceases Soap Opera News and Soap Opera Magazine

1999 David Pecker and Evercore Partners acquire AMI for US$850m

1999 AMI pays US$105m for Globe Communications Corp. and the publishing assets of Globe International Inc (including the Globe and National Examiner)

2002 AMI begins book publishing

2003 AM buys Weider Publications for US$350m

2003 recapitalisation of AMI by Pecker, Evercore and Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P.