Covers Sell

Covers Sell

REALITY CHECK: American Society of Magazine Editors

Posted by Scott On September - 2 - 2010

When talking about what makes a sexy cover, former Toronto Life editor Marq De Villiers used to say: “Well, that depends entirely on one’s glandular bias.”
Of the six covers nominated for Sexiest cover by the ASME editors, only one features a male on the cover. One can’t help wondering what the glandular biases were of the nominating group?

As most advertising executives know, and as most circulators have learned  by trial and error, “sex sells”.  More to the point, sexy covers often sell better than covers that are, well, un-sexy. One of the major motivators to do a “sexy” cover is to help drive sales. So if any category should be judged by how real newsstand consumers voted with their wallets, this surely is it.

Reality Check on Vanity Fair Cover:

While I personally love this fetching cover featuring Penelope, apparently it didn’t work at the newsstand. It was the worst-selling issue of the Jul/Dec 2009 rate base period, selling 309,000 copies according to ABC statistics. The average for the period was 444,400, so this issue sold 30% less than the overall average. Ouch! Not the result Vanity Fair was hoping for when pouring her into that clingy dress.

Reality Check on GQ Cover:

While clearly a more fitting cover for GQ than the disastrous Bruno cover, GQ couldn’t have been too happy when newsstand sales registered just 177,000 copies sold. Only one other cover sold worse during the Jul/Dec 2009 period according to ABC statistics: (you guessed it…Bruno). The average of this period was 193,440 copies sold. Kind of shocking that GQ’s two worst performers have both been nominated by the ASME editors.

Reality Check on Sports Illustrated Cover:

Ok, we have to be honest, this issue is in a league of its own, and it is probably unfair to even pretend otherwise. This sexy cover sold a staggering 925,000 copies at newsstands, according to ABC statistics.
Last year’s Swimsuit issue sold “only” 875,000 copies, thus a 6% improvement this year.  Impressive. But considering that SI sold 1,080,000 in 2008 and 1,060,000 in 2007, one might argue not sexy enough, relative to SI’s own internal benchmarking,  to be a winner when readers voted by reaching into their pockets .

Reality Check on Bazaar Cover:

No one can possibly argue that Kate Hudson isn’t sexy. I wonder why, on this cover,  they didn’t really play up her name, or her face, rather than all those flowers. According to ABC statistics, this cover sold 170,613 copies, 7% better than the overall average for the Jan/Jun 2010 period. Not bad at all, particularly in a slow US economy. But I suspect that they were hoping for a slightly bigger result at the newsstand cash registers.

Reality Check on New York Cover:

Excuse me…but that is a  very sexy cover for a city magazine. I can’t recall Toronto Life ever daring something quite this luscious. Seems that this cover struck a nerve with their audience, as sales reached 24,901 copies, a 35% improvement from their average of 18,446 for the Jan/Jun 2010 ABC statement. That’s a big result.

Reality Check on Entertainment Weekly Cover:

Is that 12 pack for real? Or has this cover been photo-shopped? This eye-popping cover sure was popular at the newsstands. ABC statistics report that it sold 85,903 copies, a staggering 112% better than their average of 45,409 for the Jan/Jun 2009 period. Only one other issue (the Movie Preview) out of 23 published by Entertainment Weekly in this rate base season sold more copies. Despite my glandular bias in favour of New York, I think we have a winner!

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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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