Is There a New Era of Magazine Cover Stars?

Posted by Maggie Dickman


Photo licensed under Creative Commons by Manoj Jacob.

Photo licensed under Creative Commons by Manoj Jacob.

When checking out at a grocery store, the first thing that catches my eye are the brightly colored magazines. The next thing that stands out is who’s on the cover. The cover stars are typically a variety of pop culture icons, those who have an influence on the average American. But how big of an influence do these celebrities actually have on the magazine covers themselves?

According to an article in The New York Times, celebrity covers have decreased in popularity on the newsstand. The Alliance for Audited Media released data showing single issue sales have dropped since the beginning of the year. Cosmopolitan sales dropped 24.8%, O, The Oprah Magazine dropped 11.4% and People dropped 14.8%.  What caused such a decline?

Steven Cohn, editor of the Media Industry Newsletter, told The New York Times that readers were getting their celebrity news from “online sources rather than magazines.” If celebrity covers are dropping, then who will end up taking their place?

For their September 2014 issue, Vogue features some of the latest social media influencers. They call them “The Instagirls,” supermodels Joan Smalls, Cara Delevingne and Karlie Kloss, who have taken over the runways and the pages of the magazines we have been buying for years. Even though The Huffington Post believes that they already are celebrities because of the “endorsements these three have had this year,” they are not movie stars or singers. Maybe this is the next step for magazine covers.

Though the sales for Vogue’s September issue, their largest fashion issue of the year, have not been released, this could have an influence on the way covers are decided for the future. How will the decline in magazine sales affect the industry as a whole? Will models sell the same as celebrities on the covers of magazines?


10 responses to “Is There a New Era of Magazine Cover Stars?

  1. You make an interesting argument–one that, as a magazine journalism major, I really don’t want to hear. You’re right that magazine sales are declining; however, I don’t this is an issue we future magazine journalists need to worry about too much. Because magazines are so niche-specific, I think there will aways be enough of a readership to sustain the industry. I really like your point that magazines are turning more toward online sources as a way to keep up with readers’ changing interests. I had no idea that Vogue was featuring social media stars on its cover, and I think this is a smart move–one that keeps the magazine timely and fresh. This just goes to show that journalism certainly isn’t dying; instead, it’s evolving and changing. It’s up to us to either keep up or move ahead to set the newest trend.

    • I completely agree when you say journalism is evolving. If something isn’t selling, we will find the new way to market what we write. Maybe this is just a trend that fluctuates, but I think, as journalists, we are always experimenting and finding better ways to do what we do. As for magazine cover stars, maybe the idea for models on the front will flop. But, it is a risk that we’ll learn from. Maybe if the cover is popular, we will see brand new faces on the magazines we read! The only way we’ll know is if we test the waters and see what happens.

  2. You do make a very iterating argument and it is something I will now look out for but I don’t think it will kill the magazine industry as a whole. Yes, sales may dip a little bit but magazine will continue to be produced and read across the world. Also I believe back when Vogue and I know Harper’s Bazaar started out they only used models, I want to say they started using celebrities for the cover in the late ’70s. In my opinion it isn’t a bad thing to use models, I will still buy the magazines because of their content. They will still feature stories concerning celebrities, you just won’t see them on the cover. I think it is a absolutely fine transition and should not impact the industry dramatically.

    • I found it interesting that Vogue is doing an almost throwback idea with their current issue. They are returning to where they started, and it’s really kind of cool. I’m curious to see how the sales compare to other months. But, I also agree that the content is what it comes down to. Especially since this is Vogue’s largest fashion issue of the year, I don’t think this would impact buyers very much. They want to know the trends, and the cover stars are usually just a bonus.

  3. You make a lot of great points/arguments. I do also notice the magazine covers when I am checking out at the grocery store. My first glance is at the cover, and whoever is on it will usually effect whether I pick up the magazine or not. I’m not sure if that is a good thing, but I have noticed that I have a tendency to pick up a magazine and read an article about someone/something I know. I do also agree with the other comments that were made by Lauren and Sarah. Journalism isn’t dying, like some people believe, journalism is just evolving and changing. We live in a world were things are constantly evolving and changing, so for things to keep up, they must evolve as well.

    • I agree with your posts as well. I don’t think magazines are losing readership. We are constantly going through changes, and it’s interesting to see how even cultural trends impact the way both journalists and readers adjust to the new ways of thinking. It doesn’t surprise me too much to see that their could be a shift in cover stars, as we have seen shifts in all areas of writing and design throughout the years. As with anything, we just need to stay responsive to what readers want and continue to provide content that they’re interested in. If that means new covers or content, then we best be ready for the new, exciting challenge.

  4. I thought this was a really interesting post. Social media has made some huge changes, but sometimes we forget to consider that it can affect all kinds of media including magazines. I think the decline in people buying magazines with celebrities on the cover could have to do with what Lauren mentioned about magazines being niche-specific. As more magazines are being published people are able to buy certain ones specific to their needs. It’s possible that this has led to a decrease in the need to buy magazines with celebrities on them. Whatever the reason, it’s always interesting to see how the media continues to evolve.

    • I agree. Like I mentioned in a previous comment, maybe we will be going back to covers before celebrities were on them. Models used to be a huge selling point. With social media growing, we are reaching a ton of new, interesting people, and that could be a whole new idea of “who sells.” As an avid YouTube lover, I would love to see some of these social media influencers featured on magazines (I just saw that Bethany Mota, a big name American YouTuber, is on the next cover of Seventeen). There are always stories about people making a difference, and those can be largely shared too. Paying closer attention to what continues to pop up in the media will be the best way to help us continue to provide content that readers are interested in.

  5. You raised some really interesting and kind of disconcerting questions here. I really liked what you said about Vogue using models from social media, and I agree with what Lauren said about how it shows that magazines are evolving and changing with new trends. I think that social media does present a threat to magazines, but I think that if more companies use incorporate social media into their publications instead of keeping the two realms separate, then print media like magazines stand more of a chance in surviving despite the growing influence of social media. I think the question of what will sell magazines if celebrities do not is especially thought-provoking. Celebrities have been the dominant image on magazine covers for decades, and if they stop being popular then the industry may have to evolve to match the constantly changing preferences of society.

    • I completely agree with you when you say looking into social media is the best way to try to figure out how to provide the reader with the best content we can. Maybe celebrities aren’t as interesting as they used to be. Finding out what readers are interested in, especially what they can’t find anywhere else, is the best way to continue to life of the magazine industry. As long as we keep on top of the content we produce, I don’t see print magazines going anywhere.

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