Covers Sell

Covers Sell

Archive for May, 2012

GardenMaking Video helps Sell SIP!

Posted by Scott On May - 29 - 2012

Check out the new video, produced by GardenMaking magazine, featuring editor Beckie Fox, as she talks about Container Gardening.

It’s a great example of how pulbishers are using social media to help drive single copy sales of high value vertical content (SIPs), which have a longer shelf life and a high cover price ($9.99).

Right on, John!

Posted by Scott On May - 28 - 2012

Great article by John Harrington….

Some Lessons for a Challenged Publishing Business:

It Was Magazine Covers That Were The News This Past Week

By John Harrington

Magazine covers are often featured in the news, but it’s usually when they are reporting on a newsworthy event. This past week, it was magazine covers that were the news. The front pages of Time and Newsweek were feature items across the broader media world, providing coverage and discussion on television, radio, the internet, social media, and probably a whole list of formats that this Luddite is not yet aware of. It was not the article about child-rearing that had the country talking about Time magazine, it was the provocative cover photo of an attractive, fit mother breast-feeding her well-beyond-toddler age child. Likewise, it was not the news that President Obama had come out in favor of gay marriage, but Newsweek’s imaginative interpretation that made the magazine a focus of the national conversation.

It is important to raise several key points about magazine covers being the news, not covering the news. If Time and Newsweek no longer had newsstand sales and were only delivered to their subscribers, does anyone think last week’s covers would have generated so much buzz? Not a chance. And, don’t even pretend that they would have gathered any attention if they were only published in digital formats. Which raises the question, do digital magazines really have covers? Time and Newsweek were in the news because they were displayed across the country, actually the world, on magazine racks in terminals, bookstores, drugstores, supermarkets, and frankly everywhere magazine single copies are sold.

Beyond that, the news-making covers generated excitement and profits for two titles whose brands are virtually symbols of the magazine business to most of the public, but are at the same time viewed, at least by those of a certain age, as representatives of “old” media. Their recent circulation histories may even justify that opinion. For the most recent available audit reports (second half, 2011), Time averaged 75,000 single copy sales per issue and 3.2 million subscriptions; and Newsweek’s numbers were 40,000 and 1.5 million respectively. Again, to emphasize an earlier point, it was those relatively few retail distributed copies, compared to the mammoth subscription numbers, that put Time and Newsweek on the national agenda last week.

Beyond creating some publicity, did the publishers gain anything from their covers, or to use a relatively modern term, were they able to monetize the attention? Time’s editor-in-chief, Richard Stengel, reportedly said that the attention resulted in record subscriptions sales on the internet. It would not be surprising that Newsweek had a similar experience. But what about newsstand sales, which advertisers still look to as a measure of a magazine’s vitality? According to figures released late last week by Magazine Information Network (MagNet), the Time “Mom Enough” issue outperformed the magazine’s 26 week average by over 40%. Using the same measure, Newsweek’s “First Gay President”newsstand numbers were up by more than 50%. That’s pretty good “vitality” for two representatives of “old” media.

Generally, the retail sales of a particular issue of a magazine are measured against the sales of the same issue from the previous year. The irony for Time and Newsweek is that one year ago, their covers featured the death of the terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, and each generated some of their best numbers ever. That means that last week’s demonstrations of outstanding vitality were actually lower than the demonstrations of spectacular vitality of a year earlier. So much for “old” media.

Some Lessons for a Challenged Publishing Business: Yes, Time and Newsweek had a good week, and subsequently, so did their national distributors, their wholesalers, and their retailers. However, last week’s success contains a broader and longer-term message for the entire publishing business. Covers are the signature identity of every magazine, they define the nature of the title. When they do that well, by capturing the publication’s excitement, its unique nature, they enhance the magazine, and the entire magazine business. And where do they do that more than anywhere else? On brick and mortar newsstands!

The New Single Copy does not generally get into critiquing magazine covers, but we will broadly state that most publishers could do more to enhance their brand by using their covers to more consistently demonstrate their content’s excitement, depth, and value. The editorial in last week’s Time and Newsweek most certainly was equal to their normal high standards. What was different was the effort they made to convey that message on their covers, and it clearly was rewarded. We hope that they continue to do that with future issues, and that other publishers will do it as well. It is not just a matter of good covers. We are well aware of the time that goes into the covers of all major titles. It is more properly an increased focus on the newsstand, of the potential that is there, not just for improving single copy sales, but for the enhancement of the entire magazine business, or perhaps more appropriately today, magazine media.

Yes, retail magazine sales have been dreary for an extended period, beginning with the onset of the Great Recession; and now continuing even as the economy gradually recovers. Newsstand has always had some ups and downs, but deeper readings reveal that the cycles have been inordinately impacted by the performance of a few titles, or a single category. Growth in the early and mid-1980’s was generally inspired by the surge in men’s adult titles. Softness in the late 80’s and early 90’s could be attributed to the long decline of TV Guide, which once averaged of 10 million copies sold a week. The stable sales of the mid-2000’s was easily credited to the growth of the celebrity category, which has fallen sharply since 2008. However, one constant which sustained the business throughout the years, at least till the most recent tough times, was the entry of new titles, from publishers of all sizes. That is not what is happening today. With a few exceptions (Hearst’s The Food Network and HGTV come to mind), major publishers have not been bringing new magazines to the newsstand. We hasten to point out the substantial success of the two aforementioned new titles, which has been matched by their subscription success, as well as their ad growth, both of which grew from their newsstand success. We also hasten to point out last week’s newsstand success for two “old” media publications, which inspired a broader publishing success for both of them.

Once more, in the words of the CEO of a major publisher, words that should be part of every discussion of magazine retail sales, “The retail channel remains the cornerstone of our business!”

Quiz Show Clue

Posted by Scott On May - 25 - 2012

The Quiz Show returns from Las Vegas, where it received rave reviews from members of the City & Regional Magazine Association.  The Show was heavily attended by art directors.

This year’s show at the MAGNET Toronto event, features three of Canada’s finest art diretors.  I will be doing a Q & A to get at the “process” these art directors, and their teams, employ to arrive at a final cover subject and cover treatment.  You don’t want to miss out.

Space is limited, so sign up right away, and tell your art director friends!

Jason Logan, Creative Director, Rogers Publishing; Christine Dewairy, Art Director, Toronto Life; and Brian Morgan, Art Director, The Walrus

Here the latest clue:

WIN a $2000 check for a newsstand promotion with Presse Commerce! 

Zoomer goes Royal

Posted by Scott On May - 25 - 2012

The new issue of Zoomer magazine is noteworthy.

The issue went on sale May 21, 2012, at a $4.50 cover price.

This special collector’s edition celebrates the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and features a cover portrait painting by celebrated Canadian artist Charles Pachter. 

Click link for a video of the Editor-in-Chief, Suzanne Boyd, and Charles Pachter.

Let the Games Begin!

Posted by Scott On May - 23 - 2012

“Let the games begin!” That’s what Tina Brown, Editor of Newsweek said, in response to the Time Magazine cover featuring the breast-feeding yummy mummy. Early sales data clearly shows that this amped up cover has done its job, to sell copies. Same goes for the Newsweek cover calling President Obama the First gay President.

It was also pointed out, by the editor of New York, that for magazines that have a large percentage of their rate base covered off by subscription penetration, the cover serves another role, to simply generate buzz and excitement on TV, radio, and on social networking platforms.

Here’s a few examples of some covers that wags and whits have generated that are making the rounds, making fun of the shameless tactics used to market magazines and to market politicans, and control the game of spin.

Time’s Sexy Blonde Mom Cover Selling!

Posted by Scott On May - 18 - 2012

According to U.S.-based MagNet Business Insights (thanks to Gil Brechtel for sharing this information), the controversial Breast-Feeding cover is selling!

Rule #6 Be Controversial and Collectible

See original blog post:

Not surprisingly, all the free tv, radio, and twitter-time has helped elevate the buzz around Time Magazine.  And as one of my readers pointed out on Masthead, it doesn’t hurt that the mummy is extremely attractive (he said “hot”, but point taken) :  Rule #20  Be Sexy! is working here too.

But my guess is that Controversial trumps Sexy, and that lots of women, as well as men, are buying this issue, because it has gotten so much free advertising and people are curious to learn what all the fuss is about. But her hair may have something to do with it too, I suppose.


  1. It is tracking 82% better than the issue prior (Scandel above)
  2. It is tracking 59% better than two issues prior (Osama above)
  3. It is tracking 46% better than the total average of the 13 issues prior
  4. It is tracking 43% better than the total average of all 26 issues prior

Those are some impressive results!

Well Said, Bo!

Posted by Scott On May - 17 - 2012

This just in from BoSacks…a very compelling point of view!

Bosacks Speaks Out: On Mag Covers, Time Inc., Breasts and What’s Not Being Said!


Someone please tell me what all the discussion and brouhaha is about a very well-designed cover of a magazine.   

It seems to me that the conversation is all about the wrong thing. Is it about the picture of a woman’s breast? Is it that she is feeding her child in an open, unpretentious, and unembarrassed way? Is it that by some standards the child is just too damn old to be still breast feeding? My goodness!  Of the 10,000 magazine covers out there this year many display much more cleavage, much more breast-feeding, and many more out of the norm mother and child relationships.  Of all the things in this world to get into a tizzy over this should be pretty damn low on the seismic scale of published things to publishers, with the exception of the brilliance of the beautiful and totally arresting art direction. Isn’t that what a cover should do?  That is what we should all be talking about with complete and total professional jealousy. You should be asking, “Why can’t my art director make a cover like that?” That is the real question. 

Where is the regular production of great, provocative covers like those of George Lois, presented with regularity on the covers of Esquire. Maybe we have forgotten how to make great covers, so when someone actually does make a great one we get bent out of shape. Dammit wake up and smell the solvent. It was a great cover on a printed magazine doing exactly what it was supposed to do in a crowded field . . . stand out! Perhaps I’ve dealt with one cover breast too many to get bent out of shape by this superior media play.


In 1975 I was involved with High Times and we produced the now famous Chocolate Breast cover. No big deal and it sold about 85% of all the issues we put on the newsstand.  In fact, in those days we sold about 85% of every issue we put on the newsstand.  Why well not?  We had a great niche title and one terrific provocative cover after another.

Dear friends if you want to stop the slide on the newsstand,  dare to be great, dare to be provocative, be what you are or should be — a dynamic print product that is worth picking up and reading.  If you aren’t a cocky rooster on the newsstand, then chances are you won’t be on the newsstand very long.  To get your magazine to be read it must be picked up in the typical 10 second consumer scan. That is rule number one for any publisher whether you are in the business for 5 minutes or 40 years.  Greatness does not come from being either shy or lazy; it comes from wanting to conquer the part of the world you find yourself in.  

Take the battle to the enemy, and on the newsstand your enemies are many. You are competing against every other printed title out there and the millions of web pages that are seducing your former readers with titillating distractions.  Survival and success is your choice, the timid wither away while the publishing great’s with a compelling cover in one hand and great idea in the other, will conquer the world.

Renaissance in Cover Design

Posted by Scott On May - 16 - 2012

A fabulous, must-read, article in today’s Globe & Mail by Simon Houpt, on “The posterizing of the Media”.   Click Link To Read:

“The much hyped–indeed overhyped–death of print is spurring a renaissance in cover design,” says Houpt.  

Houpt goes on to document Tina Brown’s successes, and failures, with respect to Vanity Fair,  New Yorker, Talk and now Newsweek.  He then moves on to talk about how Time magazine and Bloomberg Businessweek’s covers are getting way more edgy, with an eye to capturing the interest of televison, the web, and bloggers, to magnify and re-circulate the buzz.

Houpt references Time magazine’s recent cover featuring a breast-feeding blonde mom, as a shot across Tina Brown’s bow.  Brown’s response?  “Let the games begin”.  This focus on provocative covers just gets more and more interesting.

“Since its redesign two years ago, Bloomberg Businessweek has become a rare business publication that puts whimsy and creativity up front, even as the covers capture a moment,” says Houpt.

All this positive focus on magazines, and covers being used as a way to define our place in the media landscape, is extremely refreshing.

Toronto Life Launches New SIP

Posted by Scott On May - 15 - 2012

Toronto Life is launching a new Special Interest Publication (SIP) on Neighbourhoods.

Here is a quote from Maryam Sanati – Editor: 

Toronto Life Neighbourhoods is an all-new insider’s handbook to the 300 best things to do in this city right now. It’s authoritative and carefully curated—everything readers have come to expect from Toronto Life. It’s also hopelessly romantic. We love this city, and we wanted to revel in its prosperity. Everywhere you look these days, Toronto has great new local bars, restaurants, markets, vintage shops, décor stores and galleries. Our experts pick the very best of the crop. The point is to offer a useful magazine that lets Torontonians play tourist in their own town. Our art team—art director Una Janicijevic, photo editor Anna Lisa Sang and photographers Emma McIntyre and Derek Shapton—contributed more than 300 documentary photographs to the project. Emma’s cover image sets the mood—a lovely street scene on a bright summer’s day. It’s a perfect Saturday morning in Toronto.”

It’s always a great day when a new magazine is launched, and particularly so when the cover is this good!

Cover price is $7.95.  On sale is May 28th.

Quiz Show Goes VEGAS!

Posted by Scott On May - 15 - 2012

The Newsstand Cover Quiz Show is going Vegas. 

On Monday, May 21st, 2012, the Quiz Show will be presented at the City & Regional Magazine Association (CRMA) annual convention, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

If you want to get the answers to the Esquire Quiz, fly down and get the inside edge.

The Quiz Show then returns to Toronto, at the MagNet Conference, on Wednesday, June 6th, 2012.  This year’s theme:  Art Director’s Rule!  Come hear how three of Canada’s top art directors create winning covers.

Jason Logan, Creative Director, Rogers Publishing; Christine Dewairy, Art Director, Toronto Life; and Brian Morgan, Art Director, The Walrus

Take part in the Esquire Quiz, for your chance to win a $2000 check from Presse Commerce for newsstand promotion for your magazine.

Here’s a clue.   Him or Him or Him?

Be sure to register early, as seating capacity is limited.  You don’t want to miss out on a chance to be a hero and bring home $2,000 for your magazine.

Sign up today


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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