Amid recent magazine newsstand slumps, covers may boost sales

Oh, the promise of spring…

When fashion titles were selling advertising for their all-important March issues, things were looking good.  Really good.

W MAGAZINE* ad pages rose a whopping 25%.  VOGUE* had 443 pages of advertising, beating its five-year average by 4.5%.  ALLURE* boasted a year-over-year gain of 5%.  Other fashion and beauty magazines reported similar numbers.

Newsstand sales, however, is another matter.

Fast forward to this week’s Rapid Report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.  March newsstand sales were, for the most part, bleak, with many titles suffering double-digit losses.  Compared with last year, ELLE* sales were down 25%.  MARIE CLAIRE* dropped by 23%.  ALLURE* sales plummeted 28% from March 2011, and even Vogue was off by 2.5%.  Despite unveiling a redesign, HARPER’S BAZAAR* was down 6%.

But among the ruins, there were a couple of standouts.

GLAMOUR*, which also timed its redesign to debut in March, saw a 1.3% rise in sales (not the 9% hike it originally reported last week, but still good news).  Not bad, when you consider it was down by 17% this time last year.  More importantly, Glamour’s April and May issues have continued the trend.  And, INSTYLE* March newsstand sales were up as well, by almost 17%.

So why did they succeed when the others flopped?  Is it the cover?

Glamour made a conscious decision to target younger readers with the redesign, featuring only 20-something celebs on the cover (Reese and Gwyneth, you’re too old), and plenty of references to youth-oriented topics.  InStyle featured Jennifer Aniston in March proving that she still has the sizzle to sell.

So, if covers do have impact on newsstand sales, TIME* – with its controversial Mom-and-son cover – should have a whopper of a week.

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