Surprise Hits: Us Weekly scores by showing stars are 'just like us'

When publisher Jann Wenner first revealed his plan to take Us, a middling monthly entertainment magazine, and put it into head-to-head competition with People, the world's most profitable weekly, it had the makings of a colossal error. In time, it even looked like an error to Wenner, who, panicked by the millions he was losing, sold a 50 percent interest in Us to Disney (DIS) for a reported $40 million in 2001.

Then along came Bonnie Fuller, former editor of Cosmopolitan and Glamour. Fuller used her uncanny instinct for what sells on the newsstand to devise a new formula for Us, heavy on paparazzi photos, celebrity babies, and tell-all quotes from suspiciously unnamed "friends." At the core of Fuller's vision was the idea that stars are "just like us": prone to bad hair days, lousy at managing their love lives, and just as eager for gossip about each other as we are for news about them.