Consumer Magazine Report: Insight – Under Cover

Steve Brodner goes in search of newsstand success
In Style – Design director Robert Priest and editor Martha Nelson take a mock-up cover to a newsstand to test it out: “[The cover subject] has to be someone the reader knows,” says Nelson. “Someone they’re interested in. It’s like walking down the street and seeing somebody in the crowd. It’s one thing to know them. But to walk over to them you have to like them, too. You’re taking somebody home you really want to talk to.”
“Many people are now doing celebrities on their covers. But celebrities are not necessarily the key to newsstand sales alone. Celebrities can’t turn a magazine around. It’s that whole mysterious package. “What’s Sexy Now?” (a recent cover) sold one million. It really is that whole package. Image, words, typography. Sometimes something is just beautiful. It works. There’s a little bit of magic in it.”

W – Patrick McCarthy, editor: “We only do five movie stars a year, so they have to be hot. [When] we were in charge of LA magazine, we did a cover with Sharon Stone. She will never have a cover of [W]. She’s a control freak. She sent someone to her house to get her own clothes. She thinks she knows more about fashion than the fashion magazine W. If she was hot, hot, hot we might put up with it. But if you’re not so hot and you do all that? We don’t want any part of it. Life’s too short.”

Time – Arthur Hochstein, art director and Walter Isaacson, editor, on deadline, waiting for the South Carolina primary results:
Hochstein: Monday’s a postal holiday. No one’s going to get the magazine until after the Michigan primary. I said to Walter, “Maybe you should skip politics.” Walter said, “We can’t do that.” So what you try to do is a cover that holds up through next week with the cover line. So that’s why we’re going to go with “What’s Driving Bush?”
Isaacson: I happen to think this (an image showing him on his campaign bus) is folksy, but this (the full-face cover) is presidential, powerful. I think clean and powerful is always preferable. It just catches your attention whether it’s on the coffee table or on the newsstand.

Esquire – cover meeting for upcoming issue, with editor David Granger and staffers:
Granger: “Is there any idea for a Restless Man cover? How about Andre Agassi?”
Staff: “There’s John Cusack.”
Granger: “He has the advantage of being on one of the worst selling covers in Esquire history.”
Staff: “But he’s a lot cooler, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. “If we sell badly, we should sell badly cool.” “How about Paul Newman?” “He looks pretty good now.” “He looks fantastic. We’ve got these black-and-white photos.”
“Why don’t you do Ed Norton?” “It’s like a no-brainer.”
Granger: “Back to Paul Newman. Would it be totally an awful thing to do an old picture of him?”
Staff: “I just think we could be a little hipper. I don’t see what’s wrong with Ed Norton and John Cusack.” “They’re young. They’re cool.” “There’s no more classic figure of American manhood than Paul Newman.” “It’s like the fossilized idea of American manhood.”
Granger after some brief talk about David Letterman: “We’ll go after Letterman as our first choice and we should make an introductory phone call about Ed Norton.”
Epilogue: They went with Letterman