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CRY ME A RIVER: Taylor Swift, looking like Carly Simon, was on the cover of Vogue February 2012. And then she took the cover of Glamour in November, Harper’s Bazaar and Cosmopolitan in December, and Elle last month.
Now here she is yet again, hair blown out, blankly staring out from the cover of April’s Vanity Fair. “Her men…her moods…her music,” the cover line reads, each ellipsis more pregnant with drama than the last.
This story first appeared in the March 12, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In the world of magazines, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. One title deems one starlet cover worthy, and three more follow, typically to diminishing results. So how does Swift do at the newsstand?
The answer may disappoint those who expected her to attract the same blockbuster numbers as her records.
For Vogue, Swift sold 329,371 copies, digital sales included, which was a little above the six-month average that ended in June 2012, but no match for Lady Gaga, the magazine’s top seller last year, with about 602,000 copies. Or for that matter, Adele, the second-best seller with 410,343. All numbers come from the publisher’s statements to the Alliance for Audited Media, which may change slightly after they’re audited.
Swift did OK for Glamour in November — but with a little over 443,000 copies, she couldn’t beat reality TV star Lauren Conrad in May who was the year’s runaway best-seller (a little over 500,000), or designer and former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham in September (about 482,000).
Ditto for Bazaar — Swift sold 138,412 copies, a little above the average for the period, but far below Gwen Stefani’s September (166,365)
She had already been booked for Cosmo’s December cover when Joanna Coles came on as editor in chief of the sex-and-makeup monthly. Swift flopped, with the issue the weakest in a year that underperformed overall — she sold a little over a million copies, or 20 percent below the six-month average that ended in December 2012. Swift was even outsold by actress Zooey Deschanel, who took the dubious honor of having the year’s second-worst seller.
What worked for Cosmo? Scarlett Johansson took the top prize, with 1.5 million copies, but the August cover with Ashley Greene was ranked second, selling about 1.4 million. Was it the “Twilight” connection or the promise of “52 sex tips inspired by 50 Shades of Gray?”
One takeaway for the fashion glossies is that singers do well at the newsstand, just perhaps not those who have been overexposed. And the thickest months, March and September, continue to be reliable sellers.
Katy Perry in September was far and away Elle’s big winner, with 293,741 copies sold, but Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears bombed — they had the worst and second-worst covers, respectively. Vogue’s biggest dud was the Olympics issue, but folks don’t come to the magazine for sports; Rihanna, also aggressively ubiquitous, followed with about 227,000 copies sold in November, or 32 percent below the six-month average that ended in December. At In Style, Jennifer Lopez took the number-two ranking for her September cover, with 756,049, after she’d already graced Vogue’s April cover, but at In Style she benefitted from coinciding with the year’s signature fashion issue. (Number one was Jennifer Aniston, with 793,588.)
So, what other celebrities can the fashion titles bank on? Newsy ones, for starters. Vanity Fair’s September issue scored with Kate Middleton, who ran away with 401,247 copies, the year’s best, and its big Scientology exposé, which featured the unhappy tale of one Katie Holmes.
The other Kate — Moss, that is — is also a fan favorite, giving Bazaar and W their second best-sellers of the year, for June (148,434) and March (27,302), respectively (The lion’s share of W’s circulation comes from subscriptions). Moss did less well for Vanity Fair, selling 277,190 in December, or about ten percent below the average.
It’s escaped no one’s attention that Architectural Digest has lately taken to putting mature personalities on its cover — Valentino in October, and Elton John just this March. Numbers for the most recent issue aren’t available, but readers showed absolutely no interest in the retired Italian, even if he was shot with his pugs — the issue was the worst seller, with just 52,514 copies. What did sell? Brooke Shields in the Celebrities at Home March issue. Elle Decor had a hit with Reese Witherspoon, selling 90,900 copies in September.
But what about Swift? Is she forever tarnished for covers?
“There may have been a little hiccup for her right around the 1-D relationship,” said Glamour editor in chief Cindi Leive, referring, for those who aren’t informed, to Swift’s fling with a member of the band One Direction. “But it’s nothing a pro can’t come back from. I’d put money on her for the long run.”