Beyoncé may have slayed the ubiquitous tabloid baby announcement once and for all. Or at least inflicted the fatal wound.
After avoiding the spotlight for eight weeks, Beyoncé sent shockwaves around the world last week when she announced that she is expecting twins. And she did it the way more and more celebrities are choosing to do so: on Instagram.
Gone are the bids for exclusive publishing rights to baby bump photos on magazine covers or TV. Social media has given stars the power to control their own brands, and they’re not looking back.
And it’s not just pregnancy announcements. Kim Kardashian West revealed the first photos of Saint West — which in the past could have commanded a hefty payout — not in a publication, but on her social media accounts.
Queen B’s announcement generated more than 10 million Instagram likes and a half million comments, in addition to being the lead story on every major entertainment outlet that day.
“In the past, it would be this competition about who is going to get it — People, Us, a TV outlet — but this way they don’t have to answer to anyone, they can just do it themselves,” Ian Drew, entertainment director at Us Weekly, told BuzzFeed News. “They get all the news out there and then we are able to further repost and share their announcement on our social media and our website, which gives them an even bigger platform, and everyone picks it up.”
And that, experts say, can be far more lucrative than a one-time contract with a magazine or network, because the bigger their social reach, the more money they can command for sponsored or paid posts. For someone like Kardashian, that price tag can be well over seven figures.
The talent doesn’t care that a million people are going to be reading this article.
“Instead of them doing a deal with a magazine and saying, 'We will give you exclusive rights for $100,000,' they would rather do it on their own social media platform…they are bringing people into their life so they will continue as an audience for when they have a career announcement to make,” said Michael Heller, CEO of Talent Resources, who cut his teeth in the industry brokering multimillion-dollar deals for everything from baby pictures to exclusive interviews.
“The talent doesn’t care that a million people are going to be reading this article,” he added. “What they care about is that a million people are following their social media…they are bypassing the mainstream media.”
Exclusively posting a big life moment — a pregnancy, wedding, or engagement — brings new people into a celebrity’s social media sphere. And the prevalence of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram has created more avenues for them to reach a wider audience.
It also eliminates having to deal with highly competitive media organizations, said Rob Silverstein, executive producer of Access Hollywood.
“If you have a big announcement or pictures, and you just give it to one outlet, you can upset other outlets — ‘Why did you pick them?’ and that kind of nonsense,” he said.
Public attitudes on profiting directly off of children, who are now seen far less in paparazzi photos, have also changed.
Silverstein said he doesn't see first-baby exclusive photo deals much anymore, unless the money is being donated to charity. “To me, it feels like you are making money off your kid, and that is distasteful to me,” he said.
Elizabeth Chambers, who has two children with her actor husband Armie Hammer, agreed.
“You are bringing a human into this world,” Chambers told BuzzFeed News. “I don’t think you can put a price on that. It is so personal that it would be weird to shop around details about the most sacred thing — this child’s birth.”
Social media has also become the dominant space for baby news as media outlets become more reluctant to break personal news involving a child. While it was widely speculated behind closed doors that Amal and George Clooney were expecting, entertainment outlets kept off the news until Julie Chen confirmed it on CBS’s The Talk.
“We as a show have a policy, even if we know someone is pregnant, we don’t out them until they want it announced,” Silverstein said.
It all adds up to more control for celebrities.
“It is here now,” he said, “and it is going to continue to grow.”