Reports of the death of celebrity magazines were greatly exaggerated, according to the latest ABC results.
The biggest winner was Northern & Shell's OK!, which recovered from a torrid performance in the second half of 2008 by investing heavily in celebrity hatch, match and despatch exclusives.
Over the six months to the end of June, OK! returned to pole position with an 18.0% increase period on period to 599,847 copies. Andy Taylor, associate director at Carat, believes world exclusives are "paramount to the success of the title".
He comments: "These figures show that if you don't have deep pockets to pay for the A-list celebrities, you are going to struggle."
OK! bought up rights to the biggest celebrity story of the year - the death of reality TV star Jade Goody. It also snapped up exclusive deals with Charlotte Church, Kian Egan of Westlife and the estranged couple Peter Andre and Katie Price.
OK!'s circulation rise reflects the magazine's strategy to buy market share through strong editorial in a fiercely competitive market.
Its nearest rival, Bauer's Closer, which increased its cover-price from £1.20 to £1.30 early in the reporting period, held steady with a circulation of 530,371 - an increase of 0.6% year on year and a drop of 1.8% period on period. Its sister title Heat posted year-on-year and period-on-period falls of about 5% to 445,192.
Meanwhile, NatMags' Reveal was helped by its drop in cover price, climbing 14% year on year to 315,660. OK! stablemate Star, which dropped its price from 99p to 66p but subsequently increased it to 85p, reported a 10.6% year-on-year increase to 317,940.
The biggest loser in the sector was IPC's Now, which posted a 14% year-on-year drop to 384,356. But Fiona Dent, managing director of IPC Connect, refuses to be daunted. She says: "We are making strategic innovations on the magazine to create a premium product that will attract premium consumers and advertisers."
This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk