Covers Sell

Covers Sell

Free Magazine Won the Gold (Again)

Posted by Scott On July - 8 - 2010

Report on Business magazine, distributed free of charge in the Globe & Mail, won the Cover of the Year Award at the National Magazine Awards gala in June.

It is the fourth time that ROB has taken home the Gold Award, and third time this decade, thus dominating the 2000’s.  ROB now shares the honour (with Toronto Life) as the most decorated magazine ever in this important category, according to the NMAF web site:

Magazine Title Year Award Type
TORONTO LIFE How the Gun Has Changed Toronto 2008 Gold
MAISONNEUVE The Food Issue 2007 Gold
AZURE Water 2006 Gold
REPORT ON BUSINESS 10 Dirty Secrets of a Bay Street Temp 2005 Gold
FQ MAGAZINE Summer Issue 2004 2004 Gold
CANADIAN HOUSE & HOME Free Spirited Decorating 2003 Gold
REPORT ON BUSINESS Body Flop 2002 Gold
SATURDAY NIGHT What’s a wife worth? 2001 Gold
SATURDAY NIGHT Saul Bellow 2000 Gold
CANADIAN GEOGRAPHIC Through the Lens 1999 Gold
SHIFT Bran Man 3000 1998 Gold
TORONTO LIFE The best food 1997 Gold
TORONTO LIFE No brainer 1996 Gold
EQUINOX Is It All in Your Head? 1995 Gold
ENROUTE Canada’s Top 150 Restaurants 1994 Gold
C MAGAZINE Biology Obsession Invention 1993 Gold
MTL Mordecai Richler 1992 Gold
MONTREAL Hotshots! 1991 Gold
EQUITY Serious Money 1990 Gold
IDLER The Swimming Hole 1989 Gold
REPORT ON BUSINESS Bolshoi Mak 1988 Gold
MONTREAL October 1987 1987 Gold
FORUM The Slower Learner’s Dilemma 1986 Gold
T.O. MAGAZINE Making It 1985 Gold
SATURDAY NIGHT The Eve of Destruction 1984 Gold
QUEST Welcome to that Year 1983 Gold
PRISM INTERNATIONAL September 1982 1982 Gold
QUEST Raging Berbick 1981 Gold
VANGUARD Art Work by Betty Goodwin of Montreal 1980 Gold
WEEKEND MAGAZINE The Eisenhower Years 1979 Gold
WEEKEND MAGAZINE Seal Hunt 1978 Gold
TORONTO LIFE The Italians 1977 Gold

Report On Business

Many winners of this award have been primarily controlled circulation titles, and many are sadly no longer with us, such as FQ, Shift, Montreal, Weekend and Saturday Night. 

In an online Poll conduced by  3% of the 121 respondents predicted that ROB “would win” the award, and only 1% of the 67 respondents said that it “should win.”

Perhaps being unburdened by competing on crowded newsstands, and not being handicapped by the need to motivate readers to subscribe, (and thus help support the writers, editors, fact checkers, photographers, illustrators and art directors),  has its merits after all.

8 Responses to “Free Magazine Won the Gold (Again)”

  1. Patrick Walsh says:

    Hi Scott,
    The best cover award spurs much debate every year at the NMAF (and in the mag community in general). Over the years, we’ve strived to balance the jury for that category with a mix of industry pros with experience on the editorial, art and newsstands sides of the biz. I’ve heard arguments that it doesn’t matter what type of mag it is (controlled vs. newsstand), it still must compete for the reader’s attention, and compel him/her to pick it up and open it. Sometimes, I’ve heard it argued, a compelling cover, sans cover lines, can be just as enticing, and therefore competitive for reader attention, as those covers that follow the traditional newsstand model (ie., benefit-driven cover lines, etc.). Maybe the judges, if they’re reading this, would like to chime in with the reasons they chose the ROB cover this year. Cheers all.

  2. Peter van de Geyn says:

    If a magazine can’t even spark enough interest that people are willing to part with their hard-earned money to pick up a copy at newsstands, I find it a little surprising that they are given awards. It seems like some of these awards nights are held so a bunch of people standing in a room can pat each other on the back. Just my two cents.

  3. Report on Business deserves recognition for thinking outside of the box for cover design, and very often meeting its objective of needing to stand out in the Globe and Mail. One of their recent covers, the Pink Women’s issue, comes to mind as a cover that might have even had legs on the newsstand. I would take issue though, with any judge or anybody that thinks a compelling image sans cover lines would sell at the newsstand. Over the years I have seen the NMAF give recognition for good photography over effective sales packages. I was the Circ Director at Saturday Night when the magazine was available at the newsstands as well as distributed to 330,000 Globe readers. We had to attract readers in both environments, and always new we had to drive home the benefits with strong coverlines.

  4. Paul Jones says:

    This is an excellent winner according to the “art with logo” school of cover design–which is perfectly appropriate for magazines that don’t have to sell on the newsstand. The idealization of cover lines as design elements is arresting and it’s well done.

    But it would never sell on the newsstand, where prospective buyers need to instantly discern benefits. More often than not, these are conveyed by cover lines, the more legible the better.

    The problem with the “best cover” category is not the winners, not art directors, nor even the judges, but the Board of the NMAF. Year after year we have apples competing with arugula. It depends. Do you want pie? Or do you want salad?

  5. Christina Baird, Cdn Geo says:

    Watch this “anatomy” of the winning ROB cover on the Globe’s site
    to better understand how this cover came to be and why they chose the bold typography over image. Obviously the team took the job of producing the cover seriously knowing that even as a controlled title, you still must remain relevant and be of interest for your publication to survive.

    With regards to awards in general, I still maintain that in my 15 years in marketing I have seen many awards given – be it for covers or promotional campaigns – on the merits of shock value or artistic creativity but where I have personally seen the results of the campaign that leave the publisher/company without a lot of revenue on their financial statements.

    Even our own Through the Lens issue that won this prestigious award in 1999 and that we were beaming with pride to accept and announce, sold the worst out of all covers in that fiscal year. There was no dispute that the cover photo was beautiful and artistic, but the circ department at the time was very concerned about the sales, knowing that an unsellable cover means you have to spend inordinate amounts of time jumping through hoops to find other ways to replace the rate base of your circulation level. Every time a cover doesn’t hit sales targets, it’s an expensive scramble to replace the lost circulation and keep the publisher and advertising department happy. Truthfully, it’s kind of a pain.

    To this very day, when people see that beautiful black and white photo on the cover of Through the Lens, they speak to its beauty. As a matter of fact it was recently voted Best Cover of the Past 30 Years ( an amazing honour that I can’t tell you how proud we were to receive. But only from my limited circulation point of view, in an ideal world it’s nice to say that I would take a prestigious award over the sales. But when looking at things from a bottom-line perspective in the middle of a recession where every penny is so important, I respect the need for sales. Actually, in an ideal world, wouldn’t you have both?

  6. Patrick Walsh says:

    The problem is with the board? Please elucidate, Paul. What exactly do you mean, since the board does not choose the winner. Should we get rid of the category? Add more cover categories? Wow.

    “Year after year we have apples competing with arugula. It depends. Do you want pie? Or do you want salad?”

    Um, please translate.

    By the way, I was on the board for 10 years. This was my last awards.

  7. Paul Jones says:

    Hey, Patrick, chill.

    I was on the Board for many years too and actually led a committee that, among other things, was supposed to fix this problem. Clearly I failed miserably. So I was pointing the finger at myself when I made the comment, something I might have made clearer for those unaware of the history.

    The reason that the Board is responsible is that it has never resolved the underlying issue. Judges then do what they are inclined to do and we end up with the problem I described in my earlier posting. And if the Board takes no action, the same problem will be continue to be discussed a decade from now.


  8. Patrick Walsh says:

    One solution would be to add more categories (for different circ categories, and for controlled vs newsstand), but, well, that would add more categories (an untenable solution, given the board is also battling with the perennial beef that the program is too long as it is). The other option, of course, would be to ditch the category. I guess I’m just being defensive of the board (past, present and future), because it’s damned anyway which way it goes.

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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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