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Star magazine

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They say print media is on the decline, and the latest figures don’t dispute that. Yet one particular form of print media – coupons – continue to thrive. So could coupons turn out to be just what circulation-seeking magazine publishers are looking for?

Could be, if you’ve seen or purchased a copy of this week’s Star Magazine. Alongside the front-cover photos and blurbs about Hollywood gossip, the celebrity-themed weekly features a banner emblazoned across the top: “Inside: $95 in coupons for health & beauty products.”

That’s enough to make the magazine stand out in some shoppers’ eyes, particularly at the supermarket checkout, where many people already have coupons on the brain.

And Star Magazine could use the extra attention. As a group, celebrity magazines showed significant declines in newsstand sales in the first half of 2014. While subscriptions remain strong, according to figures released just last week by the Alliance for Audited Media, Star Magazine’s single-copy sales have slipped 21.8% so far this year. Competitors such as People, InStyle, US Weekly and In Touch Weekly have suffered similar declines.

So could coupons help turn things around?

Coupons in magazines are certainly nothing new. But there are very few magazines that offer a significant selection of them, and fewer still that call attention to them on the front cover. Only All You, a monthly sold at Walmart and by subscription, regularly features a large number of coupons – making the magazine appealing to some shoppers who may not even be interested in the editorial content.

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According to the most recent figures from the coupon processing company Inmar, coupons printed in magazines accounted for just 1.2% of all coupons offered in 2013, and just 0.4% of all coupons redeemed. So a weekly magazine offering several pages of coupons is more noteworthy than it may initially appear.

“We always look for ways to provide extra value with the magazine,” Star Magazine editor-in-chief James Heidenry told Coupons in the News. “These coupons were a test to see how our readers would respond.”

He and a Star Magazine spokesperson were tight-lipped about whether the “test” will last for more than one issue, and how they will determine whether the test was successful enough to warrant coupons’ permanent inclusion in Star Magazine’s pages.

The coupons themselves are not unlike what you might see in a Sunday coupon insert. Aside from a few coupons for Kellogg’s cereal, Voskos yogurt and pistachios, most of the offers are standard-value discounts on personal care products like Dove, Dial, Nivea and Right Guard. The total “$95 in coupons” is largely inflated by several percent-off coupons for Vitamin World that are said to be worth up to $63.

So the real “test” will be whether you want to pay the $4.99 cover price for 32 bucks worth of coupons and some discounted vitamins. At least a few fans seem willing to do just that. On the gossip and entertainment blog Celebitchy, a discussion on this week’s cover girl Gwyneth Paltrow led one commenter to write, “I care more about the $95 in coupons than Goop.” Another added, “I don’t buy Star but I think I’ll flip through to check out the coupons.” (A third commenter found it “absolutely hilarious” that Paltrow “is on the cover under a HUGE banner reading ‘COUPONS!!’ So gauche, so peasant.”)

So celebrities and coupons may not appear to be a natural combination. But consider this – in what’s been a rough year so far for magazine circulation all around, one of the few magazines to show an increase (11.5%) in newsstand sales is the coupon-filled All You. And its sales are outpacing Star Magazine’s by more than 40%.

You do the math. It would appear that Star Magazine already has.

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