The New Yorker, whose covers are zeitgeisty pieces of art in their own right (and aren’t tied to a specific story), sees spikes when a cover taps a particular nerve. According to vp and publisher Lisa Hughes, newsstand sales for its recent Bert and Ernie gay marriage cover were up 39 percent compared to the same week last year. It had 650 million press impressions and 46 million social impressions.
From a broader perspective, covers are a huge selling point to advertisers. Mazda, which purchased the first four pages of the Bert and Ernie issue, “got lucky, as it was a homerun,” Hughes said. “They’re thrilled because it gives resonance to their campaign.”
While Businessweek, which has been making waves with a succession of buzzy cover images since its young editor Josh Tyrangiel took the helm in 2009, doesn’t have a set-in-stone strategy for pushing out covers, it tends to share them on social platforms on Thursday, a day before the magazine gets to newsstands and subscribers. These covers have led to a direct boost in traffic and sales, according to the magazine.
Though there are times when risky covers miss the mark, though, like this illustration from February 2013 that was lambasted across the Web for being racially insensitive. Tyrangiel was compelled to issue an apology for a cover that seemed to suggest the housing crisis had truly gotten bad when a lot of dark-skinned people can get loans.
Still, over the last two years, the company has seen a lift on newsstand sales of buzzy covers in the range of 30 to 60 percent of the yearly average, according to Alec Casey, head of circulation at Bloomberg Businessweek. The covers also positively impact on Businessweek.com subscription business improving order production between 20 and 30 percent compared to weekly averages.
“Last week’s cover story, ‘Hedge Funds Are for Suckers,’ is a good example,” said BusinessWeek.com’s Paskin. “Provocative cover, strong story, great headline.”
If only it had been about something more interesting than hedge funds.