The Five Most Egregious Magazine Covers of 2016 (S0 Far)

There are now so many ways for a magazine to brand itself. There is, of course, the print edition. Even for the most digitally savvy publication, everything usually starts there. But there’s also the web edition, the mobile edition, the digital replica. Then there are the social media feeds, events, videos and newsletters. So which comes first?

I don’t think I know anymore. But one thing that has not changed is the magazine cover. Think of it as the front door to a magazine brand. Sure, it means very little for the reader who drops into the website (In fact, on many magazine websites, you have to work hard to even find a mention of the magazine). Subscribers, be they print or digital, have already ponied up money for the magazine so they’re going to get that issue no matter what.

So why, even in this day and age, is the cover so important?

Because it is the front door of the magazine. It says to potential readers who you are, what you are about. What’s in between the covers.  Most importantly, if your reader picked up the magazine at the newsstand, they paid full cover for that one issue.

Sure, you could have subscribed to Entertainment Weekly  for one year for $5.00. But if you went to the newsstand and picked up the June 17 issue with the TV show Mr. Robot on the cover you paid full price, $4.99, for that one issue. So that means you must have really liked Mr. Robot and Entertainment Weekly. Right?

As far as I am concerned, there is little more unsettling in the world of cover design when a well known magazine blows a flat note and puts out an unattractive cover. What were you thinking? Why did you do that? Sometimes it’s groupthink. Sometimes it’s an experiment that just went wrong. Sometimes it’s just that there was nothing else to work with.

Last year, the Foredeck introduced the “Most Egregious Cover of The Year” of the year. The response from readers was pretty interesting. Now that we’re halfway through this year I thought I’d share with you what I think (You’re entitled to your own opinion of course) are the covers that that have made me wrinkle up my nose and wonder what went wrong.

For your consideration:

5. Outside Magazine, May 2016

The only real issue here is the simple fact that you have to stop and squint to read part of the cover line. What they were trying to tie together was the National Parks 100th anniversary and their list of 100 things to do in the national parks. Most likely this looked way better on a computer screen than it did printed on paper and placed on a newsstand.

Fortunately for Outside, they publish twelve times a year and from my perspective they usually hit triples and home runs.

may-2016-cover
Swing and a miss.

 

4. DuJour Magazine, Summer 2016

Let’s leave aside the potential political debates about this issue. They are immaterial for the purposes of this particular post. Sometimes black and white covers can work well. Heck, the Foredeck has listed some in times past. But there’s just something creepy and foreboding about this particular one. Even if Donald Trump weren’t running for president, the image of him lurking in the background is just….off.

dujour-melania-trump-8193f6b1-1ba0-4995-a43b-067b18781603
Don’t look over your shoulder Melania….

 

3. W Magazine, June 2016

File under “An Unlikely Mess.” Who doesn’t love English model-actress Cara Delevingne? But why dress her up as an emoji? Let’s hope her new movie does better.

W Magazine June 16
Not so sure I ❤ this…

 

2. Vogue Magazine, May 2016

Taylor Swift and Vogue have a long history together. I made their February 2012 cover featuring Taylor Swift as my #1 cover from the Foredeck that year. Usually Swift on the cover is instant attraction on the newsstand. It’s not that one of the most popular and powerful singers in the world can’t go out and change up her look. But in this photo, otherworldly looks unrecognizable. I’m not opposed to red backgrounds. In fact I love primary colors in the background. But this one….

Vogue May 16
…not so much.

1. Chicago Magazine, January 2016

To me Chicago Magazine is the epitome of a successful city book. I look for the latest edition of Chicago Magazine every month when I’m out at retail. Usually their covers are reliably good. It’s as if they take to heart every single CRMA presentation ever given and then make it better. “Top Doctors” editorial is generally a top newsstand seller for most city publications. Most “Top Doc” covers feature some sort of generic doctor on the cover so it’s understandable that Chicago tried to do something creative. But this?  Should we call Spiderman and let him know that Doc Ock has invaded the Second City?

 

Chicago Mag Jan 16
Paging Dr. Octavius!

The good news is that for every flop of a cover, there is usually a redeemer or two. Chicago Magazine has published several very good covers since January 2016 and for the record, may I show you what I think is one of the very best covers of 2016, Chicago Magazine’s July 2016 cover. Featuring a puppy.

ChiMag Jul 16
Who doesn’t love a puppy?

Just remember. The cover is the front door. You want curb appeal. You want people to spend full freight on that copy. You want them to love it so much that they’ll turn around and subscribe. And subscribe to the newsletter. And pay for a ticket to your event. And buy your “Buyer’s Guide.” And subscribe to your YouTube feed.

More puppies. Less octopuses.

 

 

Thanksgiving Potpourri

So what am I grateful for this year? You mean aside from being gainfully employed and working in an industry that continues to fascinate, infuriate and confound on a regular basis? Yes, there are things to be grateful for. Here are a few of them:

MagNet Reports: I’m grateful that buried about halfway down last week’s third quarter news dump was this interesting tidbit: While everyone knew that Source Interlink’s ungraceful exit from the newsstand biz was a sales killer, same store sales looked pretty good. In other words, sales in retailers that weren’t Source supplied and didn’t have their deliveries interrupted were, well, not bad.

Data reported to MagNet suggests that retail sales in retailers unaffected by Source saw their dollar volume rise (in part because of price increases in celebrity weeklies. Unit sales, for the months of August and September declined by 6.5% (a significantly better picture than the entire market and entire 3rd quarter which was down by 26%) but dollar volume rose .75%.

IMG_1441

I can tell you from my own experience that I am seeing stronger sales in both units and dollars since this summer and I am projecting much better 3rd and 4th quarter results for most of my clients.

Strong Covers: I don’t know about you, but I am seeing some great covers this year. It’s going to be very hard on the foredeck to select this year’s top ten! I’m grateful that we continue to turn out some pretty tremendously great magazines. While our industry has struggled from declining circulation and ad revenue, we haven’t experienced a creative brain drain on the editorial and design side.

Should DuJour's two tone high gloss logo from their Fall issue make the list?
Should DuJour’s two tone high gloss logo from their Fall issue make the list?

Maybe our leaders should start pumping some revenue back into circulation and marketing? Maybe we could budge the numbers upwards with a little support?

Honest reckoning in the world of digital circulation: I have to confess that when I hopped into the world of digital newsstand and subscriptions, I thought the world would be much like the one I inhabited and I also thought sourcing and maintaining these readers would be a snap. Maybe I’d have to eat some crow and admit the fanboys were right.

Nope.  Not so much. Digital circulation has its own rules, its own weirdness, and is not that easy. Obscure provider service, buggy apps. Price sensitivity. Building what is essentially an entirely new business model on the fly is, well, wicked hard.

I’m grateful that maybe, just maybe, we can finally have an honest discussion about how digital and print circulation can coexist and support each other in the long term goal of growing a magazines’ readership. Because that’s our ultimate goal, right?

Taylor Swift: No! I’m not a creepy internet stalker. And I don’t turn her music off when it pops up on the radio. And I don’t roll my eyes when the spin instructor starts off another week with a T. Swift single.

Taylor was on three magazine covers (that I’m aware of) last week. That’s probably not a record but it’s bound to help sales and that’s always a good thing considering how many other covers she’s graced this year.

With that in mind, I’ll be putting out my top ten unscientifically chosen covers next month and I want to know if I you loyal readers think there should be a special Taylor Swift category.  I already took an informal survey of some of the national distributor AE’s I work with asked them this question:

“Should the Foredeck of the Titanic have a special award for 2014 Taylor Swift covers?”

And the answer was:

So what do you think?
So what do you think?

Chime in with your answers below.

So what are you grateful for this year?