Covers Sell

Covers Sell

Archive for January, 2011

10 Best Sites

Posted by Scott On January - 31 - 2011

The Feb/Mar 2011 issue of Canada’s History hits newsstand racks on January 31st.  This cover is a bit of a departure for Canada’s History, as it has the feel of a travel/destination magazine.  Here’s what publisher, Deborah Morrision has to say about the cover and subject matter:

“Since 2011 is the centennial year of Parks Canada, celebrating these national historic sites by making it the first cover story of the year was a natural choice for us.  Selecting a Top 10 is sure to elicit reader interest, and we hope reader engagement.  The issue also launches an exciting contest for Canadians to share their memories and experiences with Canada’s “Storied Places.”  And for their reward, one lucky story teller will end up cruising along the Viking Routes  from Greenland to Newfoundland and Labrador this summer!”

The cover features strong typography to deliver the benefit-oriented (service package) selling-propostion.  The cover takes an authorotative stance.  By referencing the various locations, newssstand sales in those regions will hopefully be spiked.  The contest starburst is handled elegantly, as is the skybar treatment, which offers 3 additional hooks.  Clean and uncluttered, this cover is bright, fresh and offers solutions anyone interested in exploring Canada will find both fascinating and useful for planning upcoming holidays and weekend getaways.

Look for special point of purchase promotions at Chapters/Indigo and Presse Commerce locations.

Canada and Smaller Magazines to the Rescue

Posted by Scott On January - 30 - 2011

Recently released MAGNET data confirms that newsstand sales in Canada (measured in dollars) continue to outperform the results from the United States.  Revenue is down 5.7% from 2009 in the U.S., while here in Canada revenue is down just 4%.

It may seem a bit depressing to some that the Top 50 best-selling magazines account for a staggering 46% of the total marketshare (combination of checkout dominance, frequency, and powerful brands that consumers embrace). However, the big guys are the ones who have experienced the steepest losses since 2009.

It is  encouraging to see that sales of the smaller magazines (with passionate readers in various niches) have helped distributors, wholesalers and retailers offset those declines in a significant way.  Talk about reader engagement.  Looks like the mainline is becoming more important than ever before.


Source: Wholesale OR Q1 - Q3 2010 With nearly 7,000 titles in the distribution channel, it is interesting to note that the top 50 magazine titles represent nearly 45% of the total retail sales. Many of the titles in this group are displayed at the checkout and several of them are higher frequency titles, thus driving the total sales volume.


Posted by Scott On January - 22 - 2011

When looking at where (class of trade) the recent declines in magazine retail outlets occurred, MAGNET data shows that a big chunck fell out of the Convenience class of trade.  Over 6,800 Convenience stores vanished from the playing field, a 16% decline over the 3-year period under review.  Given the typical low-sell through efficiencies generated from these types of magazine outlets, the losses here are not necessarily tragic to many publishers, with the exception of adult magazines for example.

However, the loss of over 1,100 Bookstores (a 12% decline) which typically generate high sell-through efficiency, is more troublesome.

On a positive note, it’s great to see Grocery, Drug and Terminal all posting gains in dealers (+1,297) which more than offset the losses in bookstore dealers (-1,113) when combined.  These types of retailers of magazines have traditionally generated larger unit sales in aggregate and typically more efficiently than Convenience too.

Plus, when you add in the gains from Mass Merchandisers, SuperCenters, Newsstand and Military accounts (+2,026) the story improves yet again, as these types of stores sell product efficienctly, and often provide more retail space than Convenience.

The big whopping number is the vaguely titled Misc/Other category, which shed (-11,031) dealers, over a 29% decline from the 2008 tally.

Of the total of 15,868 dealers that have vanished since 2008, nearly 70% of them came from the Misc/Other bucket.  The devil is in the details.  While the top line number is clearly worrisome, when drilling down a modified picture begins to emerge.

Magazine retail outlets have decreased dramatically over the last several decades and that trend seems to be ongoing. Today there are just over 142,000 retailers, down 10% from 2008. There are several notable facts in this trend, with one of the most dramatic being the Supercenter COT with a 39% increase over the past two years. Another interesting point is the C-store COT. While representing over 25% of the total dealers, this COT only represents 5.3% of the retail dollars.

2010 Magazine Dealers by Class of Trade (COT)

Well, Dwell SIP Sells!

Posted by Scott On January - 21 - 2011

The results are in, and the 100 Houses We Love cover, an SIP put out by Dwell, was a huge success.

Sales in Canada were 12,300 copies, on a draw of 23,800, for nearly a 52% sell-through efficiency.

The average sale on the regular (January through August 2010) issues in Canada was 7,750 copies, on a draw of 23,100, for a sell-through efficiency of 33%.

Plus, the cover price was $9.99 on the SIP, as opposed to the normal price of $6.99.  That’s a 43% premium priced product.  And worth every penny.

  • Copies sold:  up 207% compared to the average issue
  • Newsstand revenue:  up a staggering 339%
  • Efficiency: up nearly 20pts

Vertical content.  Beautifully packaged. Fabulous Outcome.

That’s a winning hand!


“It was a great success for us on the newsstand, with approximately 82,000 units sold.  We received a lot of positive feedback from subscribers and newsstand buyers alike.  “Houses We Love” is one of the most popular sections of Dwell magazine, so we knew it would be a popular theme for our fans, and the SIP would end up being a real “best of” collectible item,” says Robyn Patty, Consumer Marketing Manager, for Dwell. 

That means 15% of the total sale came out of Canada.


Posted by Scott On January - 21 - 2011

Ever wonder why it is that (despite heroic efforts to produce better covers, on better paper, with perfect binding, and despite promoting  more aggressively then ever before) selling single copies continues to be such a challenge?

Thanks to MAGNET, a U.S.-based data clearinghouse, part of the mystery may have been solved.  (See graph below).

With dealers who carry magazines dwindling at such a pace, in both the US and Canada, is it any wonder sales are tougher to come by?  This type of erosion is akin to the Global Warming syndrome…a slow and steady melting away of our future.

Fewer dealers, fewer sales.  Who’da thunk it?   Thanks to Doug Bennet for this link.

Since December 2007, retail magazine outlets have declined in North America by some 18,000 outlets or 11.3%. Currently the number of retail outlets in North America totals just over 142,000. This number represents all retailers selling magazines, including specialty retail outlets like hobby shops, craft stores or home improvement stores. Some may believe that the majority of this decline is or was the result of the Anderson News demise in early 2009. Interesting enough, the Canadian retail outlets have also declined at nearly the same pace, 11.0%, with the current retailer total setting just shy of 25,000 outlets. The US retailers currently reside at just over 117,000 with an 11.4% loss over the same period.


Posted by Scott On January - 20 - 2011

Usually, when a magazine manages to get some free media buzz, it pays off in increased newsstand sales.  The Jul/Aug 2010 issue of Up Here certainly got noticed by the media.

Newsstand sales did improve from the previous issue by 36%.  However, compared to the same issue from prior year, sales were down 33%.  If we look at the average sale on all of the 2010 issues that preceeded Jul/Aug,  sales are only up 3% …glacial movement, unfortunately.  With that said, generating free media buzz aint easy, and having the courage to take a big risk is worthy of praise. Kudos are in order!

Climate change is, sadly, just kind of depressing no matter how you dress it up….and Subject Matter is what matters most when it comes to selling copies. Even bikinis can’t always save the day. 


Posted by Scott On January - 20 - 2011

MORE has scored.  This cover is hardly subtle.  It literally screams “Buy Me.”

Here’s how the Editor-in Chief, Linda Lewis describes it:

“This cover is pure gold because it has noticeable attitude, and at the same time accurately captures what MORE is all about. The strong in-character image of a beloved actress (in our target demographic) works in tandem with the holiday theme, but with a surprising and humorous twist. Some of the cover lines are provocative, others are benefit-oriented but overall, the combo of the text with the superstar photo makes it eminently appealing.”

Very simply put:  this issue looks like it will be a super-fun read.  One industry expert has boldly predcited massive sales.  A good bet.

The Cover is Black

Posted by Scott On January - 12 - 2011

This fabulous cover from Toronto Life perfectly captures a mood, in a place in time.  It’s February.  The cover is black.  The days are short.  The heating bill is enormous. The Visa debt from Christmas is past due.  The Taxman is at the door.  And Rob Ford is the new Mayor.  People are frustrated and some are angry.

Typically, white covers tend to out-perform black…but I suspect this issue will easily out-sell previous February issues from the recent past.  Timing is everything sometimes.

The All Type cover asks the question (yes it is negative, but honest and timely) that is on many people’s minds. The little secondary question is the perfect teaser to “get the cover opened.”  Once inside, the eight page feature dazzles with tons of visuals and side bars.  The article is a brilliantly written first-person narrative, that is poignant, painful, honest and raw…and the ending may surprise you.

 And in case you needed a little pick me up…Best Winter Cocktails (flogged in the fab drop down box in the upper right corner) might  help cheer you up too.  It worked for me.

Best Shots

Posted by Scott On January - 6 - 2011

This cover is a perfect example of committing to the cover.  Unlike many covers in the recent past, this one has just one main sell line in the body of the cover.  The other three hooks are tucked neatly away in the bars at both the top and bottom.

The bird of prey has a fierce, yet noble beauty.  The detail in her feathers are evocative of perfect crystals.

Bold type.  Vibrant colours.  Clean and Uncluttered. The easy to understand value proposition is radically clear.   You know what you’ll find inside the issue in 3 seconds or less.

This is an issue and a cover designed to inspire.  The issue goes on sale February 7th, with a cover price of $5.95.  Look for a special promotion at Shoppers Drug Mart.

Nice Snowman

Posted by Scott On January - 5 - 2011

The October 4th, 2010, issue of Maclean’s generated massive controversy.  Remember this fantastic cover?

Rule #6:  Be Controversial….usually works to lift sales.

So, did sales snowball, or did moral indignation cause a meltdown?

Sales will top 14,000 units.  Last year’s issue in the same time slot sold 8,184 copies.

This is an increase of 71%.

The sell-through efficiency is the 4th best posted in 2010…excellent news on profitability for all players in the supply channel.

Does anyone want to guess on how well it sold in Quebec?

Excluding double issues (which enjoy a longer on sale period), the average sale for the twenty-eight (28) preceding issues was 9,130 copies.  Therefore, the Snowman issue beat the average sale by over 53%.

Furthermore, when excluding double issues, the Snowman is either the #1 or #2 selling issue of Maclean’s in 2010 thus far (the March 8th issue, shown below,  was wildly successful too).


About Me

Scott Bullock is a veteran circulation expert with over 38 years experience in both Canada and the United States. He has worked on trade titles such as Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, School Library Journal and Small Press in the USA. In consumer magazines, Scott was the Circulation Director for D Magazine (the city magazine of Dallas, Texas), and in Canada he was the Circulation Director for Toronto Life, Fashion, and Canadian Art. From 2000 to 2004, Scott was a partner at Coast to Coast Newsstand Services. Scott has also held the post of VP Sales & Marketing, for CDS Global, Canada. Currently, CoversSell.Com is Scott’s circulation consultancy. Active clients include: Fly Fusion, Canadian Geographic, Canadian House & Home, Canada’s History, Canadian Real Estate Wealth, Canadian Woodworking, Canadian Cycling, Canadian Running, Canadian Scrapbooker, Legion, Harrowsmith, SkyNews, and SuperTrax.



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