Tuesday, September 14, 2010
REALITY CHECK: American Society of Magazine Editors 2010 Best Cover Contest: Science, Technology & Nature
I’ve always considered circulation management to be the “beautiful science.”

While the numbers never lie, the science is never pure.  The multi-layered variables of newsstand sales render it mysterious and therefore thrilling.  Like nature itself, covers have the power to generate breath-taking peaks (on a spread sheet) or gaping chasms.

Beautiful covers can do both.

So let’s examine the empirical data on the ASME nominations in the Science, Technology & Nature category.  Mount Everest or Death Valley?

ASME 2010 Best Cover Contest: Science, Technology & Nature
ASME 2010 Best Cover Contest: Science, Technology & Nature

Reality Check on New York cover:

Kiss a pig?  I’d rather not, thanks.  According to ABC statistics, this porker sold 13,319 copies, compared to an average sale for the Jul/Dec rate base period of 17,175…that’s 22% worse.  Of the 43 issues published in 2009, only 5 sold fewer copies, ranking it 38th of 43 that newsstand buyers “voted on” with their wallets.  Sick.

Reality Check on New Yorker cover:

According to ABC statistics, this cover sole 33,500 copies, compared to an average for the Jul/Dec 2009 period of 37,136…that’s 10% worse.  The best-selling cover in the rate base period for the New Yorker sold 55,000 copies…or 64% more.  The beautiful science is ruthlessly simple.  This cover represented a major sacrifice on the alter of art.

Reality Check on Outside cover:

This disturbing image may not be beautiful, but Outside’s audience sure loved it.  According to ABC statistics, it sold 68,066 copies compared to the average of 59,248 for the Jul/Dec 2009 period…that’s a 15% spike.  It’s also a 32% improvement from the same time slot in 2008.  Risk was rewarded.

Reality Check on National Geographic cover:

Not a majestic mountain. Not a verdant valley. This cover depends entirely on subject matter selection, a heavy commitment to bold typography, and a clean, less-is-more approach.  Radically clear.  Boldly executed.   According to ABC statistics this issue sold 204,984 compared to the average of 154,389…that’s a 33% improvement.  It was by far the best-seller of the Jan/Jun 2010 rate base period.   The beautiful science is crystal clear…this cover is a winner.

(Note:  The other two covers are not ABC audited)

- Scott Bullock
About Me
Scott Bullock

Scott Bullock is the the creator of Coverssell.com. Bullock has worked as circulation director for both consumer and B2B magazines including Toronto Life and FASHION. If you have a great cover to share, please send all submissions to 

Note to readers: some of Bullock's posts may refer to his clients.
Most Recent Blog Comment
Kelly says:
Any news on how it performed on newsstands?...
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