Covers Sell

Covers Sell

Re-Design for AD Flops in Canada

Posted by Scott On March - 2 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

First published as a quarterly in 1920, the venerable brand formally known as Architectural Digest is a survivor.  Condé Nast Publications purchased the title from Knapp in April 1993.

Effective with the April 2017 issue (here in Canada) the magazine was re-branded as AD.

Now I must admit, I’ve never been a fan of using initials for a magazine’s name…I’ve always been a fan of keeping it literal.  Canadian House & Home,  Canadian Running, Canadian Cycling, Canada’s History, Canadian Real Estate Wealth, Canadian Woodworking, Cottage Life, Horse Canada,Toronto Life, are names that say what it is…and work.

In 2016, the Canadian newsstand posted an overall decline of 11.8% on all English-language magazines sold in Canada, according to the CTC Boxscore.  And Architectural Digest had a relatively good year that year, dropping only 218 copies per issue on average or 3.5%…a very solid performance!

So how have things gone since the re-design?  10 consecutive issues have posted hefty, even alarming declines:

  • April 2017…down 32%
  • May 2017…down 13%
  • Jun 2017…down 24%
  • Jul 2017…down 26%
  • Aug 2017…down 58%
  • Sep 2017…down 33%
  • Oct 2017…down 12%
  • Nov 2017…down 28%
  • Dec 2017…down 30%
  • Jan 2018…down 18% (with more returns to come)…so the drop is over 23% per issue on average.

While AD sells only 4,555 copies on average in Canada, if the pattern is being replicated in the USA market (i.e. 10 X the size), then problems may be brewing.

The question now seems to be, can AD survive the re-design?


HGTV loves June (August Issue)

Posted by Scott On March - 2 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

For most publishers, the month of June can be tough at newsstands.  Books tend to be a bit thinner, and the warm weather can lead to less reading.  But for HGTV magazine, their August issue (on sale in June) has produced the best-selling issue for 4 years in a row.

As you will soon see, they found something that works in that time slot, and they keep on flogging it:

Rule #30:  If it works, keep doing it


Covers as Social Media Tool

Posted by Scott On February - 28 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

This article was forwarded to me by a client, and I thought it noteworthy.  It came from Free Port Press.

The editor of New York magazine is of course right, but keep in mind, the newsstand has never been a significant piece of New York’s rate base story.  So he has the luxury of being provocative and a bit cavalier about the newsstand.  With that said, the cover certainly has multiple purposes these days, that’s for sure.

The magazine cover – once a key element in making a title stand out on the newsstand – has evolved to a new purpose.

“The cover is no longer really to sell magazines on the newsstand,” explains Adam Moss, EIC of New York Magazine.

“As newsstands have become so much less important to all of us, the cover has a different function. It is basically the brand statement of what we make,” Moss says in an interview with Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni. “It declares what we think is important or interesting; it declares our voice. Also, it’s an amazing document for the purposes of social media. Social media takes your cover and distributes it all over the place and it becomes an advertisement for the magazine that’s actually more important than it was originally meant to be when it was to stimulate newsstand sales.”

Coming from Moss, the longest-serving editor-in-chief of New York Magazine, this statement has a particular resonance. What it tells us two things:

  1. He is keenly aware of the changes in the industry and the impact of social media; and
  2. He is not lamenting those changes but rather embracing them and the new opportunities they bring.

He is, as Husni reminds us, a charter member in the “Print Proud, Digital Smart” club, understanding the true role of print in the changing media landscape. Moss balances print with digital in the spirit of a true leader.

“By hiring good people who know things that you don’t know,” he tells Husni. “And then you learn from them and try to help them think about things in a certain way, but essentially you let them do their jobs. As everything gets more complicated, the role of an editor is to hire specialists and let them do their thing.”

When we talk about the changing role of the magazine cover, that “thing” is relying less on eyeballs at the newsstand and more about showcasing the brand and making the cover image socially irresistible.

“Social media takes your cover and distributes it all over the place and it becomes an advertisement for the magazine that’s actually more important than it was originally meant to be when it was to stimulate newsstand sales,” Moss continues.

He’s careful to not speak in terms of “good” or “bad” regarding the changes in the magazine industry; rather he takes a balanced approach.

“I try not to think in those terms [of good or bad], because everything is both,” he explains. “Things change; there’s no fighting the things that change. And you just have to adjust to them and think of them as opportunities and not as problems. And I think basically most of the changes have been, not all, but most, have been for the better.”

Designing covers in the new magazine market means understanding the significant change that’s taken place. Of course, consulting the newsstand experts on your team is always a positive; just be sure you’re talking to the social side as well. Exceptional cover design is a collaborative endeavor and one of the most visible parts of the magazine industry.

The New York Magazine is one title that continues to get it very, very right.



Maclean’s Gets Creative with Price

Posted by Scott On February - 21 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

The Feb 8th, 2018 issue of Maclean’s is a great example of how you can get creative at the newsstand, with multiple covers.  One cover is meant for women, and is being sold for $6.99; and one for men that costs $8.81. The 26% difference in cost represents the estimated gender pay gap in Canada.

Clever.  Here’s hoping it’s a big success.


A Message from Presse Commerce

Posted by Scott On February - 15 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

One year after the acquisition of Express Mag by Presse Commerce (the leader in waiting room subscription through unsold newsstand copies), things are speeding up. Canadian publishers are now able to sell current subscriptions to waiting rooms along with individuals.

Express Mag has become known as the expert in managing subscriptions of imported and specialized publications. Today, Express Mag handles over 450 magazine titles in Canada and in the United States. Express Mag is the exclusive North American distributor of subscriptions of nearly 180 titles, including Paris Match, National Geographic (French), Géo and Courier International.

Presse Commerce for waiting room and Express Mag for individuals will act as agencies like the Ebsco, Campus discount and others of this world in collaboration with fulfillment agencies and the publishers.

Some interesting facts about Express Mag :

# Express Mag offers mail order services and subscriptions of collectible series. Tintin figurines are of great interest to fans all across North America. Every six weeks subscribers receive 60$ worth of figurines and the collection lasts for two and a half years! This made Express Mag a one of a kind customer service company.

# The operations has to beat the clock to service Paris Match and the several French and UK people or news weeklies : the plane lands and within 24 hours the magazines have cleared customs, polybagged, identified, stamped and finally given to Canada Post and a US delivery agency.

# The core business is in Canada and the USA, but the service reaches the entire world with customers from Guam to St-Petersburg (Russia). The customer list includes the Library of Congress of the United States of America as well as CBC’s journalists.

# For the 150th anniversary of Canada, subscribers could purchase 150$ worth of subscriptions leading to all kinds of different subscription options.

Wolves Work

Posted by Scott On February - 6 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

The Mar/Apr 2018 issue of Canadian Geographic features Yukon Wolves. This handsome beast may be salivating over its prey.

Last year’s Jan/Feb issue also featured a wolf on the cover, and sales spiked up 23%.   In 2015, sales spiked by 84%.  And the 2009 cover is the all-time best-seller for Canadian Geographic!

Rule #30:  If it works, keep doing it.



Posted by Scott On January - 26 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

It was hard to miss the latest SIP from LIFE MAGAZINE at Shoppers Drug Mart yesterday.

A classic beauty!

This tribute cover subscribes to the “less is more” approach.  And it works.

According to Life Magazine’s site:

“Twenty-five years after her death, Audrey Hepburn remains one of Hollywood’s most enduring icons of style, grace, philanthropy and beauty. Remember her with this stunning tribute featuring images by Hepburn’s close friend Bob Willoughby, a renowned photographer for Life magazine among other publications. From Audrey’s early days as an ingénue starring in Roman Holiday in 1953, which rocketed her to stardom and for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, through decades of film and stage production and her work with Unicef, Willoughby chronicled her life and art. Life: Audrey presents an intimate view of this unforgettable actress, with dozens of behind-the-scenes photos and thoughtful personal reminiscences. On the set of My Fair Lady and other films including Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, making public appearances, and relaxing at home with her husband, children and pets—this keepsake reveals Audrey Hepburn from a fresh and illuminating perspective.”

Kitchen Cabinet Update

Posted by Scott On January - 23 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

The Feb/Mar 2018 issue of Canadian Woodworking is set to hit newsstands on January 22nd, 2018.

This is the second issue of the magazines re-design, and with the new, larger format, and higher cover price of $6.97.

Art Director Jonathan Cresswell-Jones has created a cover that feels contemporary, and is easy to understand quickly.

The cover lines are benefit-oriented, straightforward and place in the best “real estate”, with the skybar and button working hard to call out other compelling reasons to buy this magazine.

Canadian Woodworking is on a roll.  In 2016 sales were up 49%, with 5 of 6 issues posting gains.  In 2017 sales are up another 22%, again with 5 of 6 issues posting gains.  That’s 10 of 12 issues posting gains…impressive.




Posted by Scott On January - 22 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

The Spring 2018 issue of Fly Fusion is set to hit newsstands on February 26th, 2018.

This year’s cover has an edgy feel to it…a creative treatment not tried before.

The overall feeling remains warm.  Anglers will be eager to get their hands on the useful advice inside this beauty.


Posted by Scott On January - 18 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

The Feb/Mar 2018 issue of Canada’s History is set to hit newsstands on January 29th, 2018.

Art Director James Gillespie has created a compelling cover featuring an illustration of a Viking ship sailing boldly through an iceberg laden sea.  This marks the 3rd time in 12 years that Canada’s History has featured Vikings as a cover story.

Rule #30:  If it works, keep doing it

  • In 2006, the Vikings cover was the best-seller, selling 3,650 copies, and beating the average of the other five issues that year by 96%.  (The cover won Gold at the Canadian Newsstand Awards).
  • In 2014, the Vikings cover sold 4,086 copies, beating the prior year’s issue in that slot by 88%. (The cover won Gold at the Canadian Newsstand Awards).

Look for another strong performance from this cover.



About Me

Scott Bullock’s Newsstand Cover Quiz Show is legendary in the industry. Using covers as the catalyst, this interactive and entertaining format is a light-hearted but hard-hitting spin on Packaging 101. Testing the cover savvy of magazine professionals across disciplines, the Quiz Show pits publishers against editors, circulators against art directors, retailers against wholesalers -- ultimately leading to new common ground in the quest for better covers. Scott is the Owner of Circ3, Smart Circulation Solutions, a circulation consultancy.



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