Changes coming to the pages of People

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A recent cover. (People)
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The pages of People are about to get their first significant overhaul since Jess Cagle took the reins of the Time Inc. celebrity title five months ago.

Capital has learned that Cagle, the former Entertainment Weekly editor who replaced longtime People editor Larry Hackett in January, is blowing up the magazine's front-of-book section, "Picks and Pans," replacing its long-running movie, music, television and book reviews with a new franchise that better reflects the ways people are consuming culture online.

The section, "People Picks," which is scheduled to debut next week, according to sources with knowledge of the plans, will highlight staff picks from those four subject areas while also branching out to include coverage of apps, games, viral video, streaming video, Netflix hits, Instagram stars, and so on.

The section will be overseen by TV critic Tom Gliatto and Steve Snyder, the editorial development director of People Digital, whose inclusion hints at Cagle's push to integrate People's print and online operations. People Picks will also eventually exist as a daily digital franchise, and the magazine's traditional starred culture reviews will find a new home on the web, sources said.

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It's unclear how the other critics' jobs will evolve as a result of the change, but at least one of them won't be sticking around to find out: music critic Chuck Arnold is leaving the magazine, sources said.

Hackett, during his time in the editor's chair, had toyed around with tweaking the Picks and Pans section or moving it to the back, but he found it difficult to make any radical changes without disturbing the partial advertising pages that are confined to the front of the book, according to a longtime former staffer.

People is the cash cow of Time Inc., which is currently being spun off from parent company Time Warner in a bid to sever a stable of legacy publishing assets from the mothership's lucrative television and film brands, like HBO and Warner Bros., which aren't weighed down by the  troubles facing the print industry.

People's ad dollars were up slightly to around $253.4 million during the first quarter of 2014, according to the Publishers Information Bureau, and its print circulation is around 3.5 million, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. It reportedly generated $1.4 billion in subscription and ad revenues in 2012.

People Picks will presumably have a launch sponsor or three, but a spokesperson for the magazine wouldn't confirm or comment on any specifics.

The new front-of-book format will likely rankle some longtime readers. "They generally don't like change," the former staffer said.

Book publishers and authors may have cause to complain, too: People's book reviews tend to move copies off the shelves, current and former employees said, although we're told the new People Picks format will include a dedicated books page.

Cagle did not return an email, but he told Capital through the spokesperson: "We have new sections being added to People, others are evolving as we go forward. We hope to unveil some of this in upcoming June issues."