Some More Kick Ass Music Covers

One of the services many consultants provide for magazine publishers is a cover analysis. Over the years, I’ve developed a template that can dive deeply into the single copy sales of a title. Consequently I feel pretty qualified to weigh in on how a cover looks and how it may sell. However, if you really want some input on cover and magazine design turn to Robert Newman. Mr. Newman is the former design director of Real Simple and served as the creative director of such iconic magazines as Entertainment Weekly, Details and Vibe.

Do you want to keep up on the happenings in the magazine design world? Follow his very active and entertaining  Twitter feed, or visit his Tumblr page.

Earlier this week he published an article on Adweek titled “101 Kick Ass Music Covers. The most awesome, iconic and controversial magazine images of the last 80 years.”

Newman explained it this way:

“…they also have chronicled the changes in the culture and the sounds of the times—consider Bob Dylan’s various transformations across 24(!) Rolling Stone covers. Not only have covers become part of music history and culture at large, but they also remain a potent tool for marketing artists.”

He’s right and he pointed out that fans will obsess over the images and artists on the covers. I certainly did both as a youth and today as an adult. The 101 selections are deep and cover the broad spectrum of magazines from such classic music titles as Down Beat to the cultural icon Rolling Stone to the very controversial Kayne West/Kim Kardashian cover on Vogue last month. They are all valid choices presented in a way that will make you say out loud “Yes! I loved that!” Or perhaps “What? Why that?”

But I confess, there were a few issues and covers that I remember seeing or collecting over the years that I thought should be included.

For example, one of my favorite premiere issues is the first release of Spin Magazine featuring Madonna. It was a great kick off to an interesting title that had a good run. I was a little surprised that it wasn’t included in Newman’s collection. You may recall that I used to work for the former Capital Distributing Company, the sister national distributor to copy cat publisher Charlton Publications.  I  would have included Hit Parader covers from the titles  ’80’s and ‘90’s rennaissance weren’t included.

Time Magazine‘s Bruce Springsteen cover was included. What about Newsweek’s? What about Eddie Van Halen’s Guitar World cover. I can think of a bunch of people wondering where that was.

I submit this for your consideration and not as a counterpoint to Robert Newman’s list. Here are some additional music covers to think about and maybe smile over. Because this is a blog about the newsstand, celebrate the sales history of.

Spin Magazine's Launch Issue Featuring Madonna
Spin Magazine’s Launch Issue Featuring Madonna
Spin Magazine's Second Anniversary Issue - Also Featuring Madonna
Spin Magazine’s Second Anniversary Issue – Also Featuring Madonna
Creem Magazine Featuring Grace Slick. December 1977
Creem Magazine Featuring Grace Slick. December 1977. This made the rounds of our high school newspaper office for a few months.
Guitar Player April 2001 Featuring Eddie Van Halen
Guitar Player April 2001 Featuring Eddie Van Halen
Rock & Soul Magazine Featuring Michael Jackson. September 1981
Rock & Soul Magazine Featuring Michael Jackson. September 1981
Another "version" of Michael Jackson. Rock & Soul Magazine. July 1979
Another “version” of Michael Jackson. Rock & Soul Magazine. July 1979

I love how the “cool” logo of Rock and Soul now seems so “retro”.

Down Beat Magazine November 1955
Down Beat Magazine November 1955. I picked this up at a garage sale years ago, and may have re-sold it because it is nowhere to be found.
Circus Magazine. October 1969
Circus Magazine Featuring The Beatles October 1969
New Music Express Featuring Florence and the Machine. April 2010
New Music Express Featuring Florence and the Machine. April 2010

There’s a reason these are all strictly music titles. Consider this: Music titles that report to the AAM (Alliance for Audited Media, formerly the ABC) have declined significantly. For the last reporting period (Second half 2013), the AAM “Snapshot” showed only 6 titles reporting as compared to the second half of 2008 when 10 titles reported.

Even more ominously, unit sales were down 79% and on the retail dollars side of the ledger, sales were down -$16,180,626. That got your attention, huh?

Do music magazines still have viability on the newsstand and in print. Well, far more titles don’t report to AAM than do. And, as Newman’s list showed, there are a lot of great music oriented covers and articles out there in magazines that are not totally devoted to the music industry.

If you have any covers you want included in this list, please send them along.





The Completely Biased, Highly Subjective, Unscientific List of the Top Ten Magazine Covers of 2013

Editor’s Note: Music to accompany this post, courtesy of YouTube, the angel voiced Syd Straw and David Letterman.

Another year, another add to the many “Best of” lists we get to read and enjoy.

Late last week a colleague called me. He was full of laments. The year had started with such promise, he said, and ended on such a sour note. It felt like the wheels had completely blown off and everything was crashing down.

Well, that seems a bit extreme. But if it seems to you that our shallow little bay of the great magazine sea is suffering from a bad case of the red tide, you’d be on target.

In previous years, I’ve tried to judge cover selections by what conformed to some of the industry standards for cover treatment. Did the covers help newsstand sales? Was there a “good use” of cover lines or cover treatment?

This year, in honor of declining sales, added fees, relaunches that exploded on the launch pad, I’ve gone more informal. The criteria (which I changed early on) is simple: What grabbed my attention when I walked by?

So here they are in all their deck listing (at least by 30 degrees) glory: 2013’s Completely Biased, Highly Subjective and Unscientific Best Magazine Covers.

1) For the first time in two years, perennial winner, Vogue was not only tumbled from her top slot, but we don’t see Vogue anywhere in the rankings. Too much time in the checkout lanes scanning the iPhone? This year, the always fresh Texas Monthly takes the top spot with a look into the Dixie Chicks controversy. Great image, great cover lines, and bonus points for working the great songwriter Steve Earle into the skyline.

April 2014 Texas Monthly
April 2014 Texas Monthly

2) Here’s an interesting case of a magazine I didn’t see at retail (See, already broke my own rules). But I did see the image batted all around social media and my first thought upon seeing the cover was “Great image!” And then, Lorde’s new song turned into a earworm that would not go away. So does this Billboard cover set an example of a cover image that lives and promots beyond retail and print?

Billboard, September 14 Issue 35
Billboard, September 14 Issue 35

3) Cynics think that regional magazines are all about “Top Docs” and “Best Restaurants”. But regional magazines are so much more and the best can go far beyond simple service and feature journalism. The May issue of Boston Magazine expressed everything that needed to be said about the marathon bombing.

Boston Magazine May issue
Boston Magazine May issue

4) I’ve never been a big fan of cover tabs and pop up images in the corner are even less of a turn on for me. But my favorite magazine, Entertainment Weekly gets a nod this year for their excellent image featuring the upcoming YA adaptation of Divergent.

Entertainment Weekly 06/28/13
Entertainment Weekly 06/28/13

5) When I browse several nearby Barnes & Noble stores, I always scan the back of the racks where the imports are. I have a huge weakness for UK and Aussie titles. This year Love Magazine celebrated it’s fifth birthday and featured five unique covers to highlight the event. All of them are great. But this was the first one that jumped out at me and made me pay attention.

Love Magazine (Conde Nast) 5th anniversary issue
Love Magazine (Conde Nast) 5th anniversary issue.

6) The kerfluffle about New York Magazine changing it’s frequency was really much ado about nothing, as far as I was concerned. Magazines change frequency. Business plans adjust to meet new marketplace realities. That’s life. But in the meantime, look and this cover and tell me it doesn’t make you smile! And want to do a selfie on a spacewalk!

New York Magazine 05/27/13
New York Magazine 05/27/13

7) A few months ago, I was in a local Walgreens when an older gentleman walked up to the counter and asked the cashier if they had TV Guide in stock. “No,” she said, “We don’t have anything like that.” Ouch! Well, in the last reporting cycle, TV Guide  had a circulation of over 2 million, over 800K Twitter followers and more than 100K followers on Facebook. Is that has big as they used to be? No. Are they still in business and adjusting to new realities? Yes. This year, they celebrated their 60th anniversary with a selection of really great covers. Here’s the one that took me in at first glance (on display in that Walgreens).

TV Guide's 60th Anniversary 1 of 6 covers
TV Guide’s 60th Anniversary 1 of 6 covers.

8) The “Person of The Year” is a big deal at Time Magazine and this year not only did they choose well, but they crafted a cover that really captures the image and humanity of the new pope.

Time Magazine 12/23/13
Time Magazine 12/23/13.

9) I’m never sure what to conclude about this statistic. Outside Magazine’s single copy sales are about what they were when I worked at the magazine over twenty years ago. Whatever you conclude, the publication continues to create great covers with bold colors, great images, and clever, but not cute coverlines.

June 2013 Outside Magazine
June 2013 Outside Magazine.

10) Who says newsweeklies can’t catch the imagination and inform the public? Bloomberg Businessweek continued to inspire this year with a series of creative, interesting and occasionally jaw dropping covers. This one really captures not only the content of their feature article, but really makes you laugh out loud. Want to see what the art director, Richard Turley is up to? You can follow him on Twitter @Mr_Turley.

Bloomberg Businessweek 07/15/13.
Bloomberg Businessweek 07/15/13.

So for a moment, let’s drop the worry over where this ship is going. We pretty much know already. Let’s instead celebrate the great creativity that still exists in spades in this industry and the wonderful words and images we try to sell to the public each week.

What covers grabbed your attention this year?

Click here if you want to have your own copy of this years review of covers and see who I chose for the honor of “Runner Up”.

Click here for the best of 2012 and here for the “Runners Up”.

You can find the best of 2011 by clicking here.

And for the very first cover review that ever appeared on the Foredeck, click here.

Did Miley Cyrus Save The Newsstand?

You may remember that back in February, singer, former Disney star and social media queen Miley Cyrus made the cover of the March issue of  Cosmopolitan Magazine. When the issue went on sale, she encouraged her fans to spread her image all over North America’s newsstands with this Tweet to her 11 million fans:


Let me just say that one more time: 11 million fans (Currently 11.9 million fans).

Unsurprisingly, many of her fans took her exhortation to heart and went around and did this:

From: Twitter
From: Twitter

And they also did this:

From: I wonder who bought the Feature Checkout spot on that rack?

There was a decent amount of coverage in both fanzines and publishing related journals about her “takeover” of the newsstands.

Of course, we covered it at the Foredeck because we believe that not everything has to be all doomy and gloomy all the time.

So the question now is: Did Miley Ray Cyrus actually save the newsstand? Or at least the March issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine?

The answer is an unequivocal: Well, yeah…

I went old school and took a sampling of what I believe is about 45 – 50% of the Cosmo draw in the continental US.  Based on that limited data sample, I can report:

The March “Miley” issue sold about 7% more than the February issue within my sample, and:

The March “Miley” issue sold about 7.5% more than the January issue within my sample.

I’m sure the good people at Hearst already know the actual and more accurate results.

But there is a simple and obvious moral to the story:

Social media and an active fan base can help newsstand sales in certain instances. Since the “Hannah Montana” show ended, Miley Cyrus has been more famous for her hair styles and tattoos than her music and acting. That’s not a knock on her. She clearly knows how to manage her “brand” and public image and she does a good job at it. Despite the lack of TV, movie and music exposure she has 11.9 million Twitter fans and 26 million Facebook “Likes”. More importantly she  has people who will go out on their own time and do stuff for her. Like merchandise magazines. And buy them. You know, pay full, single copy price with US dollars for old fashioned media printed on wood pulp.

In other words, what Mr. Magazine(tm) calls magazines.

So imagine, even with a small niche magazine, what could happen if you merged an active fan base and a dedicated group a readers.

Spend some time on Twitter or Facebook and scroll through the postings of any bookstore (chain or indy) or major retailer. Or many magazine publishers for that matter. On the publisher side, other than a few callouts that this or that issue is on sale and this is what the cover looks like, how much single copy promoting (or subscription promoting) is going on? How about the obvious place to promote single copy sales? Bookstores?

Very little is going on. And I’ve never understand the reluctance. Are the social media and circulation silos still that hardened? How much effort or energy or even creativity does this take?

If you’re going to drop some serious promotional dollars on a special issue, why wouldn’t you make note of it on your social media feeds? At least more than once on a Wednesday at 4PM? And why wouldn’t you get with your retail partners to promote that?

If you are going to go through the time and energy to print hundreds of thousands of copies of your magazine, pay tens of thousands of dollars per issue to ship them, pay tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars to pay for premium display space, why on earth would you simply leave it to accident and chance that your audience just might, maybe, perhaps, possibly walk by a magazine rack and suddenly have an urge to buy your product? Why would you limit your audience to only people who occasionally browse a magazine rack?

If anyone has some stories about their efforts with social media and single copy sales, please ping me and let me know what happened. I’d be happy to help you publicize your story.

Miley Cyrus Saves The Newsstand!

Back in the day, you know, way, way back.  Back when we rode our dinosaurs to work and peddled our stone wheeled cars with our feet. Way back then there were significantly more than four major national magazine distributors in the country. I can think of at least nine and I am sure there are some people who could come up with the names of some more companies.

At that time, there were more than three hundred magazine wholesalers located in large and small cities around the country. Those nine (Or more) national distributors, had a pretty large pool of publishing representatives working out in the field to manage the sales of their client titles.

In those days I flew pterodactyl coach class on all my business trips and I was guaranteed to meet up with a few publisher representatives in almost all of the primary and secondary sized wholesalers I visited. The major cities may have had as many as twenty or more located both at the wholesaler level and out in the field. With a few exceptions, these representatives could give me a very comprehensive tour of the best and busiest newsstands in each town.

Natural consolidation (Some of these companies bought each other up) as well as the forced consolidation we underwent in 1995 – 1997 has pretty much dried that all up. The major wholesalers now have merchandisers who put up magazines in the largest retailers. In some cases, these merchandisers no longer work exclusively with magazines and handle other products. The remaining ND’s have some people out in the field but their numbers have significantly dwindled. Want to know what your special display looks like in the Marsh Supermarket in Indianpolis suburb of Noblesville? Most of us would have to hop on a plane and go look.

So who’s out there to move our magazines?

Apparently Ms. Miley Ray Cyrus.

Miley is on the cover of the March 2013 issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine. If you haven’t seen or paid attention to her since your (Now college aged children) have left Hannah Montana  far behind, you may not have even recognized the former Disney child star.

Who's this, now?
Who’s this now?

I have to give Ms. Cyrus a ton of credit. She tweeted the following to her more than 11 Million (!) Twitter fans:

From Miley RayJust to put things into a little perspective: For the past year and a half, I’ve been keeping track of the number of Twitter and Facebook followers of some major and specialty magazine publishers. At present, People Magazine has just over 4.5 million fans.

Eleven million vs. 4.5 million.

Miley’s fans have responded to her call out. These are the results:

Team MilyNYMileyUpdates USA

Miley’s shout out to her fans started on February 1st. There’s even a hashtag on Twitter, #buymileyscosmo. It’s still very active as of this writing.

Of course, Cosmopolitan got in on the action and is encouraging the fans:

Cosmo RespondsFor those of you of a certain age and level of experience in the newsstand distribution industry, do you think the old Globe vs. Enquirer checkout wars could have ever reached this level? What would the blue coated/red tied TDS guys have done?

AdWeek Magazine reports Hearst President David Carey as saying “This was a natural force from her fan base… No big company could ever pull that off.”

He’s correct. For years, fans have been spreading their favorite actor and actress covers all over the newsstand. But not like this. Miley Cyrus’ fans are clearly motivated and are doing this 21st century style.

On the other hand, once upon a time, back when Tyrannosaurus Rex  roamed the land at will, we used to have a lot of people who could have lent a hand.

Special call out to all you newsstand veterans: How many ND’s were there back in the 1970’s? 1980’s? 1990’s? Please use the comment section below to list what you may remember. I’d be interested to know how many we can come up with.

Want to check out my list of Twitter and Facebook followers vs. their paid circulation? Click on the link. Tweet Followers vs Circ011313