COVER STARS: Those New Yorker, Rolling Stone and Time magazine covers bashing President Bush and his administration may have won the American Society of Magazine Editors' first-ever Cover Competition at the American Magazine Conference last week, but good looks don't always translate into good newsstand sales.

Both New Yorker covers for Sept. 19, 2005, and Feb. 27 were average newsstand performers in their respective six-month periods, but Rolling Stone's cover with Bush wearing a dunce cap was its strongest regular issue for the period (May 4; 176,055 copies) and outperformed last year's May 5 issue, which sold just 93,900 copies, by 87 percent.

And the rule seems to apply not only to Bush, but to Hollywood celebrities, as well. Just look at the newsstand performance of major titles over the first six months of the year, according to figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

For example, Mandy Moore was Elle's best-selling cover in the period (June; 382,900 copies, up 46 percent over June 2005) and was Glamour's second best-selling one (February; 870,014, down 7 percent). But the actress and pop star didn't fare well for Cosmopolitan. Her May cover was its worst performer (1,800,265, down 1.4 percent).

"It's a whole combination of things. A lot of it is timing, or the look the reader responds to," said Elle editor in chief Robbie Myers. For example, Moore wore Chanel on the Elle cover, a departure from her casual image. "Our readers respond to a subject they know who has a new look." Elle's May cover, its worst for the period, was an earthy Evangeline Lilly (266,900 copies, flat compared with last year).

Cosmo found better success with Beyoncé Knowles for its February cover. The pop star and actress sold 2.1 million single copies, the best for the period and a 2.2 percent increase from February 2005. Jennifer Aniston was the best-selling cover for Vogue (April; 571,346, up 7.4 percent) and for In Style (January; 865,102, down 5.5 percent) and was Harper's Bazaar's second-best cover for the period (June; 216,000, up 25 percent).

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