Covers Sell

Covers Sell

Archive for August, 2012

Sir John A, eh?

Posted by Scott On August - 29 - 2012

The Oct/Nov 2012 issue of Canada’s History features a cover story on Canada’s first Prime Minister. 

Here’s what the Editor, Mark Reid, says about this issue:

“Our Sir John A. cover photo is a classic shot of a complex, and often, misunderstood man. Sir John A. Macdonald’s accomplishments have been lost amid the myth of the “drunken, bribe-taking politician” image foisted on him by his enemies. Our cover story, by the respected historian Richard Gwyn, reveals the truth about Sir John A. — that he was likely our greatest prime minister.”

It is a classic, iconic shot, that can rival even the great covers of LIFE magazine.  See below for classic February 1991 Lincoln cover…compare and contrast. 

Click to enlarge images

Canadian Geo SIP’s Sell

Posted by Scott On August - 28 - 2012

Until 2010, Canadian Geographic had never published an SIP.  I am proud to have played a role in convincing them to take the plunge. 

The first issue was published on November 1st, 2010.  It had a retail price of $12.95 (compared to $7.95 for a regular issue).  The issue sold 16,146 copies, more than any of the regular issues that year!  In fact, it sold 19% more copies than the overall average in 2010.  And, because of the cover price, generated 94% more newsstand revenue that the average issue.   The cover featured a Polar Bear on the front and some wigged out Owl chicks on the “flip side.”   See original blog post:

Since that time, Canadian Geographic has published more SIP’s:

On May 2nd, 2011, they published an SIP on Parks, also at $12.95.  This one sold 13,925 copies, which was 3,344 copies or 32% better than their average in 2011 in units, and 114% more in newsstand revenue than the average regular issue.

On October 11, 2011, they published a second Wildlife SIP, this time featuring a Fox on the front cover and Grizzly on the back cover. Again, the cover price was $12.95.   It sold 15,644 copies, or 48% better than the average regular issue in 2011, and it generated 141% more newsstand revenue.

In 2012 they have published a Wild Weather SIP, which went on sale April 30th, and a Birds SIP which went on sale August 27th, 2012, both at $12.95.   Too early to say how well they will do, but we will report back when they final out.  My guess is that neither the Weather nor the Birds will eclipse the Polar Bear or the Fox.  Top predators are the celebrities of nature.

But these high quality, beautifully produced, verticals show the power of the Canadian Geographic brand, and have contributed signifcant single copy dollars to all concerned.

Click on images to enlarge

SportsNet sports Hot Cover

Posted by Scott On August - 24 - 2012

This new SIP from SportsNet magazine has the look of a gold medal winner…ok, this is Canada, maybe Silver.  But a winner none the less.

The editor and publisher, Steve Maich, spoke at the PBAA Canada event last week and underscored the importance of quality editorial products.  This package sure delivers on that promise. 

Here’s what Steve had to say about this issue:

“One thing that makes Canada special is that we really view the Olympics as a window on the world. Sure, we’re cheering mainly for Canadians, but we have huge interest in the accomplishments of great athletes like Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Jessica Ennis. That created an opportunity for us to celebrate an amazing Games, despite the fact we didn’t come home with a lot of gold medals. Christine Sinclair was the perfect symbol in that way. She turned in an incredibly gutsy performance that the whole country was proud of. We wanted a cover that was celebratory, and she was the natural choice to be the main image. Who cares what colour her medal is? I think our Art Director Jamie Hodgson, once again, captured exactly the spirit we were going for.”

The issue retails for $6.95, and went on sale August 20th, 2012. 

MARC Report…Check the Video

Posted by Scott On August - 23 - 2012

At the recent 8th Annual PBAA Canada event, Anita Baldwinson, Manger, Retail Services, for the NewsGroup, and Ray Argyle, on behalf of the PMC, presented their findings from a research project on the importance of magazines to Canadian consumers.  Here’s part of what Anita and Ray shared with the audience:

“With so much media attention on tablets and digital versions of magazines (and books), especially in the last year, it is no wonder that even those in the industry, Retailers, Wholesalers, National Distributors and Publishers, have wondered, is print on its way out?”

“It is this question that sparked questions and conversation at the PBAA Canadian industry conference, a year ago, in 2011. Questions such as: Is magazine readership going digital? Do young people even read magazines? And why do retailers keep cutting magazine space if the category is so profitable?”

“While no one could provide truly definitive answers at the time, what was decided was a that there was a pressing need for the industry to better understand how consumers were wanting to consume magazines and what mind-share digital actually did have. So, the industry came together to sponsor the MARC–Magazines at Retail Canada–project.   One year later, we now have answers, along with a package that the industry can use to talk to retailers and feel confident of the viability of print. Like radio continued to exist after the advent of television, so too will print continue to exist and even thrive.”

The MARC project campaign has several vehicles for industry use, which can be found at

The video (posted on the blog on the right hand side) is well worth a look.

Industry sponsors: Benjamin News, Coast to Coast Newsstand Services, IPDA, Metro News, News West, PBAA, PMC, Rodale, Rogers Publishing, Sudbury News, TC Media, The News Group, The Monahan Agency and Time Warner Retail Services & Marketing are generally very pleased with the outcome of the study conducted by Leger Marketing and feel this multi-million dollar industry in Canada will continue to provide revenue and profits to the industry that relies on print sales.

Highlight’s from Glenn Morgan at PBAA Canada

Posted by Scott On August - 22 - 2012

PBAA hosted their 8th annual Canadian newsstand conference last week at the Old Mill.   One of the keynote speakers was Glenn Morgan, President & CEO, Coast to Coast.  Glenn’s presentation…The State of the Canadian Market…deconstructed the recently released MagNet data, referenced his own annual BoxScore report, and looked at a grocery store report from the U.S., produced by Symphony IRI Group, a Chicago-based Market Research firm.

Given that the top line data from both MagNet and recently released ABC Fas Fax reports was rather negative, Glenn took a deeper dive into the data.  Some of his findings may surprise you.

Top Line MagNet Data

  • U.S. titles down 9.2% in units…8.1% dollars
  • Canadian titles down 6.5% in units…5.2% dollars

Isolating Check Out vs. Main Line

Since the majority of titles are not checkout titles, but reley on mainline displays for sales, this distinction is very important.  In 2011, checkout titles were down 7.8%, while mainline titles were down just 4%…a big difference.  Weekly titles at checkout played an even bigger role in the macro results, as they were down 8.3% in North America.

Weekly vs. Non Weekly

The negative trend for weekly titles has continued into the first half of 2012, with a 12.9% decline for weekly frequency titles, but just a 4.4% decline for non-weekly…and just a minor .8% decline in revenue for non weekly, thanks to a strong performance on price.

Canada vs. U.S.

Canadian magazines continue to outperform the U.S. titles, in a variety of ways. 

  • While the Canadian population is just 10% of the North American market, Canadian titles represent 14.7% of total single copy revenue and 12.7% of unit sales.  Better sales performance, and at higher prices!
  • It was also pointed out that MagNet does not capture all French Canadian newsstands sales, which means that Canada’s total single copy sales story is even more impressive
  • Of the 25 best sellers in Canada, 8 or 32% are Canadian produced
  • Average U.S. cover price $4.58 vs. Average Canadian cover price of $5.45
  • In 2011, U.S. produced titles were down 8% on Canada’s newsstands, while Canadian produced titles were down just 2.4%

Canadian English Language Titles

Of the magazines sold on Canadian newsstands, Canadian domestically produced English language titles now account for 15.8% of the total.  This number continues to improve.  It was 15% in 2010, and 13.2% in 2009. This trend is encoraging for our domestic industry.

Hello! magazine was highlighted as the #1 Canadian producer, and #2 overall in Canada, trailing only the venerable People Weekly powerhouse….impressive.

Keeping it Real

Glenn ended his presentation by placing single copy sales in the context of other categories of products that are sold in grocery stores.  Using market research from a Chicago-based Market Research firm, Glenn pointed out that 206 of 260 categories measured (or nearly 80% of all categories measured) experienced declining sales.  His point being, that with economic conditions being less than robust, particularly in the U.S., that magazines are not the only products that are “challenged.”  For example:

  1. Auto Fluids…down 22.8%
  2. Fire Logs/Wood/Starter…down 18.3%
  3. Milk Flavoring/Coco Mixes…down 15.3%
  4. Cough Syrup…down 15.3%
  5. Frozen Juices down 14.6%
  6. Baby Formula down 10%
  7. Diapers down 9.5%
  8. Vegtables down 8.2%
  9. Frozen Dinners down 6.4%
  10. Soup down 6%
  11. Milk down 5.3%

While the challenges faced by weekly titles, and the pressure this puts on wholesalers and retailers, is real, and not to be discounted, Glenn’s point is that magazines “are not alone” in facing sales challenges in a time of economic uncertainity.  Certainly no one in the media is saying that vegatables, juice and milk are doomed.

Rotman…New Look!

Posted by Scott On August - 22 - 2012

Rotman magazine has a new look!

Rotman Management Review is published three times per year by the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.  For the past decade, the Rotman School has been developing ‘a new way to think’ about leadership, and Rotman magazine reflects the School’s mission to shape the mindset of the modern leader. First published for alumni of the school, the magazine’s audience has expanded in recent years to include paid subscribers, business leaders and journalists worldwide.

Now, with ambitious plans to expand their newsstand reach in both Canada and the U.S., K9 Design and have been working with the publisher on a bold new look.

“As the Sales & Circulation Associate at Rotman Management Review, I’m excited to be working with Scott Bullock, K9 Design, and Coast to Coast, to increase our circulation onto newsstands with our graphic new cover,” says Kate Mills.

Editor-in-Chief Karen Christensen says, “As we begin to expand our reach on North American newsstands, we needed a more commercial version of our cover for the newsstand segment.  K9 Design has created a bold look that will enable us to stand proud on newsstands alongside our aspirational peer group, which includes Harvard Business Review, strategy+business, and Fast Company.”

K9’s Creative Director Norm Lournco says, “Our approach to this cover was one with great respect. The cover was already well known in its niche market. The logo for the nameplate had to remain the same so we worked with all of the other elements available to us that we could affect change with. Introducing large, bold cover lines, call out boxes, typography hierarchy and a fresh colour palette will increase visibility in a very heavily populated category. I think the resulting cover is a great reflection of staying true to the Rotman brand while giving it enough punch to amp -up the call to action on stands.”

As for me, it’s an honour to participate in the re-design of a new cover treatment for Rotman Management Review. The new look and feel is bold, business-like, and smart, and will help propel us to an aggreessive re-launch through the wholesale supply channel, in both Canada and key U.S. markets, later in the year. The magazine will be priced to compete head-to-head against the Harvard Business Review.

Sitting Bull Sells

Posted by Scott On August - 21 - 2012

Native Peoples magazine scored a huge success with their Jan/Feb 2012 cover, featuring Sitting Bull.

The cover increased their single-copy sale by 32% over the same issue in 2011, and sold 64% better than their average issue over the past year. 

No special promotions.  No change in frequency or cover price.  Just a great cover. 

An iconic treatment of an important historical “celebrity” resulted in this classic cover treatment. 

With all the negative noise in the marketplace, isn’t it refreshing to see a high quality, niche publication score such an impressive success?  (Click on image to enlarge)

MagNet releases 1st Half 2012 Stats

Posted by Scott On August - 17 - 2012

MagNet has just released their compiled stats for the first half of 2012 newsstand sales.  These stats represent actual sales from the vast majority of wholesalers in North America…not estimates, not forecasts, but actual sales data.

The top line data is, without a doubt, not great news.

  1. In the U.S., unit sales were down 9.9%, and dollars were down 9.1%
  2. In Canada, unit sales were down 6.2%, and dollars were down 6.1%
  3. Sell-through efficiency remained more-or-less flat at 32.4% overall, and smidge better at 32.7% in Canada

So, using this as a benchmark, any publisher in Canada that is seeing growth, or is even holding firm, should be thrilled.  At the 8th Annual PBAA event, held this past Wednesday, Glenn Morgan, of Coast to Coast, pointed out that many consumer goods are down by much much more, given the challenging economic times, particularly in the U.S.  More on this in a post coming soon.

Some interesting foot notes provided by MagNet include:

  • 63% of the sales decline in the Top 100 titles in North America was attributable to the top 10 titles, 9 of which are weekly
  • 93% of the overall decline from the Top 100 titles was caused by just 22 titles
  • Titles ranked #51–#100 actually posted a 6% sales increase in retail dollars
  • 74 of the Top 200 titles posted positive sales gains over the same period last year.

Click on Chart to Enlarge

Style…Big Ideas

Posted by Scott On August - 17 - 2012

The September 2012 issue of Style at Home looks like a winner!

“Think beige is boring? Think again. Our September cover showcases the best of neutral tones with a light-filled image of a dining room. The decor features a combination of natural materials and textures – from wood to linen – that are combined in a sophisticated but accessible fashion. To draw further attention to the beige tones, we have used a rich charcoal grey for the masthead and knocked out the logo. The main coverline sells the message “how to decorate with neutrals” which is empowering to readers. Flip through the magazine and you’ll know that the content of the magazine delivers on the coverline promise,” says editor-in-chief Erin McLaughlin.

This issue finds that “golden seem” for shelter books, where the cover looks both smart and sophisticated, yet entirely approachable and accessible.  The starburst echoes that same thrust…we want successful AND affordalbe.  And the two main hooks are hard-working cover lines that are extremely benefit-oriented.  

Legion…Then & Now

Posted by Scott On August - 16 - 2012

Legion magazine was first published on May 15th, 1926. This makes it the 3rd oldest continuously published magazine in Canada, behind Maclean’s (1905) and Canada’s History–formally The Beaver  (1920.)

“Legion Magazine began publishing in 1926 to serve the members of The Royal Canadian Legion. Over the past two decades the magazine has evolved into an engaging and attractive popular magazine that focuses on all aspects of Canada’s military past. Legion Magazine serves up a blend of Canadian history and military heritage with a healthy portion of news and information on our veterans, the military, current issues, seniors and health. ”

The magazine has undergone a number of different re-designs over the years…here are a few of the major changes so you can see how the brand has evolved.  The current art director is Jason Duprau, who graciously provided the images from their archives.

The magazine made itself available on newsstands effective with the May/Jun 2009 issue.  Since that time the magazine has published two SIP’s.  Both SIP’s sold for $14.95 and were huge newsstand success stories. 

The magazine has over 250,000 active paid subsbcribers 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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