Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Check out the new video, produced by GardenMaking magazine, featuring editor Beckie Fox, as she talks about Container Gardening.

It’s a great example of how publishers are using social media to help drive single copy sales of high value vertical content (SIPs), which have a longer shelf life and a high cover price ($9.99).

(Editor's note: Spacing magazine produced a video trailer to promote its latest edition, check it out here. Oh, and Zoomer is using video as well.)

Friday, May 18, 2012
According to U.S.-based MagNet Business Insights (thanks to Gil Brechtel for sharing this information), the controversial Breast-Feeding cover is selling!

Rule #6 Be Controversial and Collectible

See original blog post:

Not surprisingly, all the free tv, radio, and Twitter-time has helped elevate the buzz around Time Magazine. And as one of my readers pointed out on Masthead, it doesn’t hurt that the mummy is extremely attractive (he said “hot”, but point taken) :  Rule #20  Be Sexy! is working here too.

But my guess is that controversial trumps sexy, and that lots of women, as well as men, are buying this issue, because it has gotten so much free advertising and people are curious to learn what all the fuss is about. But her hair may have something to do with it too, I suppose.


  1. It is tracking 82% better than the issue prior (Scandal above)
  2. It is tracking 59% better than two issues prior (Osama above)
  3. It is tracking 46% better than the total average of the 13 issues prior
  4. It is tracking 43% better than the total average of all 26 issues prior

Those are some impressive results!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Toronto Life is launching a new Special Interest Publication (SIP) on Neighbourhoods.

Here is a quote from Maryam Sanati – Editor: 

Toronto Life Neighbourhoods is an all-new insider’s handbook to the 300 best things to do in this city right now. It’s authoritative and carefully curated—everything readers have come to expect from Toronto Life. It’s also hopelessly romantic. We love this city, and we wanted to revel in its prosperity. Everywhere you look these days, Toronto has great new local bars, restaurants, markets, vintage shops, décor stores and galleries. Our experts pick the very best of the crop. The point is to offer a useful magazine that lets Torontonians play tourist in their own town. Our art team—art director Una Janicijevic, photo editor Anna Lisa Sang and photographers Emma McIntyre and Derek Shapton—contributed more than 300 documentary photographs to the project. Emma’s cover image sets the mood—a lovely street scene on a bright summer’s day. It’s a perfect Saturday morning in Toronto.”

It’s always a great day when a new magazine is launched, and particularly so when the cover is this good!

(Click here to read an article about the SIP announcement party back in Feb.)

Friday, May 11, 2012
The 2012 Quiz Show at the MagNet Conference, Wednesday, June 6th, 2012, will feature three of Canada’s finest Art Directors for a Q & A on the Cover Development Process.

Jason Logan, Creative Director, Rogers Publishing; Christine Dewairy, Art Director, Toronto Life; and Brian Morgan, Art Director, The Walrus; will be this year’s star guests, as they share insights on how the cover process works, who is involved, what matters, and how covers evolve creatively from concept to completion.

This year, covers from Esquire magazine will be featured in an audience particpation warm-up event, with a lucky attendee walking away with a $2000 cheque for a newsstand promotion, sponsored by Presse Commerce. Click on Images to Zoom in.

Plus, you’ll get insight on the 30 Rules for newsstand success, and an inspirational Quiz Show session, with the audience matching wits with our Celebrity Art Directors… after all, Art Directors Rule!

Last year’s event was a sell-out, and seating is limited, so don’t miss out.

To register, click on this link:

Act Now to reserve your seat, and to secure a chance to be a hero and bring home $2000 for your magazine!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The May 21, 2012 issue of Time magazine is causing quite a stir.

As we know, the bible thumpers and moral majority crusaders south of the border can really get agitated about breasts. Then throw in the fact that the kid who is breast feeding (something all politically correct types and health care advocates support), is more teenager than toddler, and bam, you’ve got the nitro effect that can create a firestorm of chitter chatter, outrage, and free publicity.  And probably help sell a lot of magazines!

Rule #6  Be Controversial and Collectible

Wednesday, May 09, 2012
The American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) has announced the winner of the Cover of the Year award, in the 6th annual Best Cover Contest.

This year’s winner is the October 3rd, 2011 issue of New York magazine.

The announcement of the winning cover was made by Lucy Danziger, ASME President, and Editor-in-Chief of SELF, at the ASME Annual Meeting in New York City. 

“The editors deliberately chose a model representing the story at its most extreme and photographed her in the pose made iconic by Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair. Her belly was plumped with a prosthetic pillow, then carefully retouched to look real. The over-the-top poster-like cover was meant to stop consumers in their tracks-and it did.”

Did it, really? 

According to ABC stats, the winning cover sold 13,950 copies.  The average for the July-December 2011 statement was 14,204 copies.  So the winning cover sold below average.  Of the forty-two (42) issues published in 2011, fifteen (15), or 36% of all issues published by New York sold more copies.

Perhaps the cover stopped consumers in their tracks, oh the horror!, but really, if recycling an old idea from Vanity Fair 1991 is held up as somehow original, or artistically brilliant, or praiseworthy, then so be it.  The idea has been riffed on so many times it really has become cliche, which is sad.  The original was such a classic.  See Hall of Fame

Just look at some of New York’s 2011 covers that not only stopped consumers in their tracks, but got them to reach into their pockets and purses and vote with their wallets.  These covers are just a few examples of what the City and Regonal genre does best.  The genre was invented by New York’s legendary editor Clay Felker.

According to ABC reports…

  • September 5th, 2011 (9-11)…100% better than ASME winner
  • December 19th (Love)…92% better than winner
  • June 13th (Baby)…89% better than winner
  • June 27th (Summer)…87% better than winner
  • Mar 14th (Best Of)…64% better than winner
  • January 3rd (Eat)…62% better than winner

These covers work hard at the primary mandates: 1) Reflecting positively on the brand, 2) getting subscription copies opened by eager readers, 3) selling copies at newsstand. After all, the readers are what matter the most. 

Advertisers also matter to magazines, and the eyeballs of readers had better be demographically relevant, and of sufficient reach, when ABC or PMB-like readership results are under review. These covers delivered on all counts!

Just ask yourself:   How likely is it that New York’s cracker jack ad reps enclose the winning cover in their media kits, or take this cover out when calling on prospective advertisers, or when they visit Madison Avenue ad agencies?  Not likely?  If not, why not?

I will critique the other ASME 2011 winners in my annual Reality Check.  If you wish to look at last year’s reality check, start here:

You’ll find the rest under the New & Networthy Icon.

Monday, May 07, 2012
The 2012 National Magazine Awards Foundation has released the list of finalists for the annual Best Cover Award, handed out at the presitgious event June 7, honouring artistic and editorial excellence in the Canadian Magazine community.

There are 10 nominees for the Best Cover Award.

Please vote for both the cover you WANT TO WIN the gold.  And vote for the cover that most likely WILL WIN the gold.

Scroll down and Check out the 10 Finalist covers below:


Now, here are some observations…

The Grid:

Lass Turnbull predicted that The Grid “was going to make some noise,” and they most certainly have.  I posted some very favorable reviews of The Grid, regarding their covers, so it comes as no surprise that they have snagged two nominations for Best Cover.  See Links Below:

Under Turnbull’s stewardship, his magazines have won before, both at Report on Business in 2005 and at Shift in 1998. And with two covers in the mix, The Grid has a 20% chance of success! 

Canadian Business:

I’m a huge fan of Canadian Business… they have been turning out excellent covers. I blog about them as inspirational object lessons frequently.  See links below:

The nominated cover sold 6.4% below their average for the year. CB’s PMB numbers are impressive, with 11.8 readers per copy and an audience of over 1 million.

The two subsequent issues, July 18th and August 15th, sold considerably more copies to eager readers.  The July 18th cover sold 122% more than the nominee, and the August 15th cover sold 64% better.  These covers are fantastic examples of what make magazines special: they look like fun, timely, provocative, informative, interesting, useful and entertaining reading experiences.

And let’s not forget the CB Specials. The annual 2011 Summer Investor issue sold 275% more copies than the nominee.  The annual 2011 Winners & Losers issue is selling brilliantly as well (while not final yet), at 164% better than the nominee.  Tell me readers and advertisers are not thrilled!  As for the brand…these covers would make any brand manager beem with pride.

Vancouver Magazine:

As the former Circulation Director of two city magazines (Toronto and Dallas), city magazine covers are amongst my favourites. And Vancouver Magazine consistently turns out first-rate covers that are some of the very best in the city and regional genre.

The nominated October 2011 cover was the worst selling cover of the 10 regular issues, selling 38% below the overall average.

Check out these two awesome covers from Vancouver Magazine.  The Jul/Aug 2011 (30 Top Shops) cover sold 151% more copies than the nominted cover.  The Jan/Feb 2011 (Wine Awards) cover sold 154% more copies than the nominated issue.  It is also the best-selling issue since Jul/Aug 2009…i.e. the best performance of the past 26 issues published! 

While it is true that these two issues enjoyed more time on the newsstand shelves, which helps boost sales, they also are extremely elegant, sophisticated, and finely honed artistically.

These covers work hard at the primary mandates:  1)  Reflecting positively on the brand,  2) getting subscription or even controlled circulation copies opened by eager readers, 3) selling copies at newsstand.  After all, the readers are what matter the most, and they usually vote with their wallets.  Advertisers also matter to magazines, and the eyeballs of readers had better be demographically relevant, and of sufficent reach, when ABC, CCAB statements, and PMB results are under review. These covers deliver on all counts! 

Toronto Life:

Toronto Life has a rich history of winning the Best Cover award. They took home Gold in 2008, 1997, 1996, and 1977.   They share the “most decorated” distinction in this category with Report on Business magazine.

The nominated October 2011 cover sold below the average for all 2011 covers, i.e. 7th best of the 12 published.

  • The April 2011 (Eat) issue sold 59% more copies
  • The January 2011 (Cheap) issue sold 46% more copies
  • The September 2011 (Exodus) sold  10% more copies

Are these not worthy of Gold?  They are classic service journalisim covers in the proud tradition of City magazines, as invisoned by the great Clay Felker of New York magazine, the father of city magazines.

Report on Business:

The iconic Canadian brand has won the Best Cover Award four times, tied with Toronto Life, for most Gold awards in this prestigious category.  They won in 2009, 2005, 2002, and 1988.   Impressive. 

As a controlled circulaton magazine that is delivered with the Globe & Mail, the magazine can focus on simply reflecting proudly on their brand and making sure it is compelling enough to get newspaper readers to pick it up and read it.  Judging by their PMB numbers, this is not a problem.  2011 PMB shows a circulation of 265,000 copies for a total audience of over 1 million or 4 readers per copy. 


Personally, I’m betting on This.  This has won the Canadian Newsstand Awards four times in a row (from 2007 through 2010…talk about a dynasty) where 50% of the judges score is based on newsstand sales results and 50% of the judges score is on artistic merit.  

The small independent magazine, with a proud tradition of publishing many of Canada’s best writers, always punches well above its weight.  The cover is both fun and original…a great example of what makes magazine publishing relevent, exciting, creative.

According to the publisher, Lisa Whittington-Hill, the nominated cover was their 2nd best-selling issue of the six issues published in 2011. It sold 22% better than the average issue.  That’s a winner! 

Here are some other classics from their website:


The award-winning in-flight book won the Best Cover award in 1994, for Canada’s Top 150 Restaurants. 

Being unrestrained by the need to sell on cluttered newsstands, the magazine’s covers are free to dazzle and tantalize.  Bonus:  no ugly UPC codes to worry about either.  The key is to get those high-end travelers to open the magazine, and spend some quality time consuming the goodies inside.  You have to love captive audiences.  PMB stats sure look good.  Circulation of 138,000 copies yields an audience of 986,000 at 7.1 readers per copy.  Impressive.  Looks like the covers are working!


Winner of the Silver in the Best Cover category last year, this year’s nominee is pink and cute, not terrifying and disturbing….so it probably won’t win.  But you never know.  “Art with Logo” ( a term coined by the great Paul Jones) is often a recipie for success!


While the Walrus usually cleans up in almost every other category at the National Magazine Awards, they have yet to claim Gold in the Best Cover competition.  But don’t count them out this year.  John Macfarlane, Editor and Co-Publisher, owns bragging rights for winning this covetted category.  He was either Publisher or Editor on 5 winners of the Gold in the Best Cover category.  By my count, Macfarlane holds the record for most wins in Canadian Magazine publishing history, so don’t bet against him or his team!  The Walrus has 34 nominations this year…the most of any magazine.

The nominated cover (Food) was the 4th best seller of the 10 issues published in 2011.

The cover that sold best in 2011 for the Walrus, was the Summer Reading issue, which sold 54% more copies than the nominee.  It’s excellent to see that first-rate fiction still sells magazines!  Great for Canadian writers, great for the Walrus brand, and “food for thought” for other Canadian editors and publishers.  The Jan/Feb and March 2011 covers both sold 36% better than the nominee. 

See blog post from 2011 by clicking this link:

And here is a post from 2010:

Thursday, May 03, 2012
An interesting and entertaining article in the National Post by William Watson  pokes fun at the Department of Canadian Heritage, Stephen Harper, Feminists, English Canadian prudes, Quebec culture, Sex Trade Workers, and Canadian magazine publishers, all in one hilarious and infuriating poke in the eye.

At least Watson is honest enough to inform us where he stands, when he writes, “Whether or not you think the government should be reinforcing Canadians’ magazines purchases–and this page thinks it shouldn’t be–the idea is at least to reinforce actual cash-on-the-barrel-head purchases, not to supplant readers’ tastes entirely. Subsidies are proportional to consumer purchases.” 

It’s interesting how Watson fails to mention that newspapers are HST exempt, but that magazines are not, which means magazine purchases contribute to the government coffers, while newspapers get a free ride…talk about a subsidy, hello.

While I think both covers are quite effective at their mission, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether Watson is correct when asking the rhetorical tongue-in-cheek question: “With the scale advantages American girlie magazines enjoy (and “guys-ey” magazines too apparently), aren’t we patriotically obliged to help protect local production against unfair foreign competition?”

Pehaps Mr. Watson answers his own question with a question in closing, “How long before we start hearing from Quebec about how moralistic English Canadians are and uptight about sex?” Judging by the New York Times Best Sellers List, with Fifty Shades of Grey topping the charts, I’d say that most Americans, and Canadians, are not as uptight as Mr. Watson would like you to believe.

And since the National Post chose not to publish the cover of the Gay publication (could it be his readers are too uptight to handle it? the Post is homophobic? Sexist? or perhaps simply “space challenged”?, as opposed to hypocritical?), for the sake of gender equality, and as a public service, here are the covers.  To each his/her own.


Tuesday, May 01, 2012
To Celebrate their 25th Anniversay, the editors of Cottage Life have selected the magazine’s best BBQ recipies for their first ever Special Interest Publication (SIP), which debuts today on newsstands. Cover price is $11.95 vs. the regular $5.95 price for Cottage Life. 

The magazine is 124 pages thick.

According to Nancy Parker, Circulation Manager, “We felt with the Cottage Life brand being so strong, and it being our 25th Anniversary this year, it was the perfect time to publish this special collector’s cookbook. There are over 200 recipies from the editors and contributors of Cottage Life, and we are thrilled with how it looks.”

Look for promotions at fine retailers such as:

  • Chapters
  • Loblaws
  • Lowes
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Walmart
  • Gateway

The cover is indeed mouth-wateringly delicious.  Smart handling of the branding, letting SUMMER GRILLING take the lead. Smart use of left-hand real estate, bold use of big number to quantify value proposition, good use of devices such as starburst and cover slash, and nice use of red to help draw the eye down the page.

About Me
Scott Bullock

Scott Bullock is the the creator of Bullock has worked as circulation director for both consumer and B2B magazines including Toronto Life and FASHION.

Note to readers: some of Bullock's posts may refer to his clients.
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