People magazine has unveiled the cover of its very special Kim Kardashian wedding issue, officially kicking off a promotional push to convince readers to buy a hard copy of the publication when it hits newsstands on Friday. Part of that promotional deal involves a dollar-off coupon — you save a buck off the newsstand price and People inches closer to recouping the reported $1.5 million it spent on the rights to all those Kardashian and Kris Humphries wedding photos.
Actually, the people at Time Inc., which owns People, are probably more interested in volume; the more Kardashian issues they sell, the more they can boast about publishing one of the most popular editions of the magazine at a time when print publications are struggling. Moving newsstand copies that feature Kardashian in a bridal gown theoretically shouldn’t be too hard; based on the online interest generated by the over-the-top nuptials, the public seems to have a strong appetite for all things related to the couple’s excessive, black-and-white-themed wedding.
How strong is it when compared to, say, the recent royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton? And perhaps more important, why do so many people want to read about the day Kim Kardashian said “I do”?
To be clear: Kim Kardashian is not, nor will she ever be, a royal. The April ceremony that united the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in holy matrimony was an infinitely more historic occasion and one that generated much more chatter in media outlets as well as among us “commoners,” who all got to experience the pomp and circumstance of the wedding together on live TV.
As a non-member of the monarchy and a celebrity that hasn’t exactly achieved Angelina Jolie status, Kardashian hasn’t captured as much mainstream attention. But online? Well, that’s another story.
Yahoo noted that its site saw three times as many searches for the name Kim Kardashian on the day of her wedding as they saw for Kate Middleton on April 29, the day she married William. And while most media outlets don’t share internal traffic data, it’s fair to assume that celebrity sites and entertainment blogs saw some spikes around their Kardashian-related posts.
Why is that? For starters, because the Kardashian wedding wasn’t broadcast live on TV and covered in the moment by every media organization around the globe, more people needed to seek out the immediate details online. And that, perhaps, automatically translated into more searches on sites such as Yahoo and Google.
But that technical truth doesn’t erase the fact that, yes, Americans do like to keep up with the Kardashians. In a recent Hollywood Reporter story, branding expert Linda Ong explained the fascination this way: “The Kardashians represent a new type of exotic subculture. . . . Today, when most people are just trying to survive, seeing them thrive gives us all hope.”
But I actually think there’s something else at work here, and that’s the inalienable American right to life, liberty and the ability to anonymously mock celebrities online. Like Paris Hilton before her, Kim Kardashian is an absurdly wealthy reality star who turned her fame into a business model but doesn’t appear to have done what most people would consider a hard day’s work in her life. That makes her a bull’s-eye for online dart throwers, as evidenced by the fact that she recently landed on the list of top 10 most unpopular celebrities, based on a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll. Some celebs are like snark bait to the gleefully biting blog-commenting set, and Kardashian is one of them.
Her wedding, then, represents the ultimate excessive, gaudy magnet for Kardashian critiquers. To spin Ong’s theory in a different way: When most people are just trying to survive, this reality show family threw a wedding that further demonstrates a total lack of connection to what most of us consider reality.
To the haters, the union of Kardashian and Humphries and all its accompanying swag is like gasoline on an already crackling, anti-Kardashian fire. Naturally, they want to know every detail so they can get super-ticked off about very specific things.
“They spent $20,000 on a ring? So typical and so tacky.”
“They registered for multiple $7,000 vases? Disgusting.”
“The wedding cost millions of dollars and Kim Kardashian is somehow going to make a profit from it? That makes me so spit-flyingly angry that I’m going to post one hell of a comment on this Web site. And I will make sure to hilariously note how big Kardashian’s backside is in that comment because, clearly, that’s directly related to this.”
Sure, some may have been intrigued by all the Kardashian wedding coverage because they embrace every diamond-encrusted, Robin Thicke-crooning, fairy tale detail. And those are probably the people who will buy that special issue of People. As for the snarkers, they may not want to spend a few bucks to look at photos of their sarcasm target of choice, especially in a format that provides no outlet for appropriately smart-alecky remarks.
In that way, this Kardashian/People partnership may be an excellent test of the mogulista’s true reach. If her fans really do outweigh her detractors, that issue will fly off newsstands. If they don’t, well, Kardashian isn’t exactly going to fade away. After all, her wedding will make a cultural resurgence again in October when E! airs its televised special. And until then, as well as long after, Kim Kardashian, it seems, will always have a place on the Internet.