People magazine faces online backlash for upbeat Trump treatment


People magazine is facing an online backlash for lavishing sympathetic coverage on a newly elected Trump, just weeks after defending an account it ran of one of its writers allegedly being assaulted by the real estate mogul.

While some in the news media have editorialized that a Trump presidency will be a “tragedy” and a “bitter pill to swallow,” the Time Inc. cash cow struck an upbeat tone with its Nov. 9 cover featuring a profile of Trump and his “astonishing journey to the White House,” heralded with a celebratory “He’s hired!” tweet. But there was more! Cozy family photos, White House decor plans and Melania Trump’s “best moments” in style followed.

Just weeks earlier, People dropped a recent bombshell in the campaign when it published an account by staff writer Natasha Stoynoff alleging Trump assaulted her while she was on assignment to write a feature on him. At the time, People editor Jess Cagle published a note calling her a “remarkable, ethical, honest and patriotic woman” and saying, “We stand steadfastly by her.”

New York magazine’s The Cut called it “shameless Trump-family pandering.” Twitter was quick to pile on:

A People spokesperson emailed a statement saying: “Donald Trump’s win is a history-making news event that warranted the cover of the magazine. The story is not a celebration or an endorsement and we continue to stand by Natasha Stoynoff, whose account of being attacked by Trump in 2005 is recounted in this week’s cover story.”

Twitter criticism aside, People knows its audience, and this may be just what its readers expect and want. With a readership of 39 million, People has long been the most widely read magazine in the U.S., a position it can only occupy by appealing to the masses, and many of them are doubtless in the Trump camp. People is broadly distributed across the U.S., according to a circulation statement. California had the biggest number of print subscribers (276,618), followed by Texas, with 163,207. Other states with 100,000-plus subscribers were New York, Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania. As the company’s financial engine, People is closely guarded.

Still, like much of traditional media, it is in decline. Its readership is down from 43 million in 2014 and in the past seven years, its single-copy sales have fallen roughly in half, in line with newsstand sales generally.

People has been trying to make up for challenging print revenue through digital. It’s grown its digital footprint by doubling the number of stories it’s posting, upping its video output and increasing its focus on stories about everyday people. But digital advertising is hard to come by and not as lucrative as print. This summer, Time Inc. cut its forecast for the year, citing declining revenue from print, subscriptions and newsstand.

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