The ubiquitous Kardashians continued their media reign last year with dozens of magazine covers, a set of new apps, more television airtime and more attention from the fashion industry. Yet despite their popularity, the Kardashians haven’t exactly been able to translate their enigmatic brand into newsstand gold for magazines.
While the newsstand is quickly deteriorating — MagNet characterized annual declines in the double-digits and said last year that it estimated newsstand magazine sales in 2015 to be $2.5 billion, which is just about half of what was generated in 2007 — editors continue to search for cover stars to stem the losses.
So who better than the Kardashians? The clan and its equally everywhere siblings the Jenners appeared on numerous magazine covers in 2015, including Cosmopolitan, Allure, Glamour, GQ, Rolling Stone, Teen Vogue, Women’s Health, Complex, Interview, Paper and Redbook. WWD tracked available newsstand sales data from the Alliance for Audited Media and found that many magazines saw a decline in copies sold when they featured the family members.
Cosmopolitan, the largest U.S. women’s magazine, turned to the Kardashians twice last year in hopes that the family’s elusive charm could give it a much-needed sales bump. For the first half of 2015, Cosmo’s total single-copy sales hovered at 531,086, and weren’t helped by its February cover star, Kylie Jenner. Although Jenner has emerged as one of the most popular members of clan Kardashian, the issue delivered 495,423 in sales.
Still, that was better than Cosmo’s November issue, featuring all the Kardashian/Jenner daughters plus matriarch Kris. That cover, which dubbed the reality stars “America’s First Family,” ruffled a few feathers on social media — not to mention in the corridors of Hearst Tower.
At a recent luncheon, editor in chief Joanna Coles defended the cover and its provocative tagline, explaining: “People accused me of putting them on the cover to ‘sell a few magazines.’ Are you out of your mind? It sold f–k millions!”
Not so much. The issue garnered 436,500 in total copy sales, as well as almost 8,000 comments on Instagram, many of which were critical of the cover and tagline. (Nonetheless, the image of the cover nabbed about 35,500 likes).
During the lunch, Gayle King, editor at large of Cosmo sibling O, The Oprah Magazine, shared her disdain, interrupting Coles and adding: “I said I didn’t like them being called the first family.”
WWD reached out to Coles for further comment Tuesday, but the editor was unavailable. It should be noted that while the issue was one of Cosmo’s worst sellers of the year, it still sold more copies than Vanity Fair’s big July Caitlyn Jenner cover, which sold 432,923 copies — although it ignited a flood of traffic to the VF Web site as well as a whirlwind of coverage online, on TV and across other media.
But back to Cosmo, which jumped at the chance to get the six family members on its cover, in part for social media pull and advertising dollars. Cosmo, which feted its 50th birthday with the Kardashian family, is said to have garnered 9 billion impressions on a live story that it partnered on with Covergirl for Snapchat. The live story of the Oct. 13 party was shared on Snapchat’s main landing page. It is believed that Cosmo’s Snapchat Discover channel grabs about 3 to 4 million views a day, and is one of the platform’s best performers.
As for other titles, Condé Nast’s Allure sold 81,385 copies with its March Kendall Jenner cover, which is on par with its first half average of 85,249 copies sold. The model also appeared on the cover of big brother GQ in May, and sold 83,202 copies, which was off about 10,000 copies from its first-half average.
Glamour registered newsstand sales of 164,918 for its July Kim Kardashian cover, which was 14.6 percent off its first half average of 193,108 copies. Teen Vogue outpaced its first half average by about 1,000 copies with its May Kylie Jenner cover that sold 48,237 copies on the newsstand. Meanwhile, Rolling Stone got a lift from its racy cover of Kim Kardashian with 89,100 copies sold, as did Women’s Health, which sold 265,965 copies for its Khloé Kardashian cover, depicting the reality star in an unbuttoned chambray shirt that revealed what she called her “revenge body.”