COVER STORIES FOR 2000
Byline: Lisa Lockwood
NEW YORK — Go figure.
As any savvy editor knows, featuring an A-list celebrity on the cover isn’t always a slam dunk for a fashion magazine. And sometimes a celebrity can work miracles for one magazine and bomb for another.
Lisa Kudrow, for example, was featured on Marie Claire’s best-selling issue last year (August), but was also the cover girl for Cosmopolitan’s worst selling issue (October).
Top stars such as Demi Moore and Uma Thurman appeared on the lowest-selling issues of In Style and Harper’s Bazaar, respectively, last year. And Renee Zellweger, Elizabeth Hurley and Jennifer Lopez graced the worst-selling issues of the year for Vanity Fair, Marie Claire and Teen People, respectively. In fact, a few other former and current “It Girls,” namely, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Sharon Stone and Madonna, didn’t make the winner’s circle in 2000. Neither did Monica Lewinsky, who was Jane’s lowest-selling issue last year.
But certain stars were golden.
For instance, Julia Roberts was featured on Harper’s Bazaar’s best-selling cover of the year — the March fashion issue. Catherine Zeta-Jones was the cover model on In Style’s number one seller in 2000 (April). And Cameron Diaz helped catapult Cosmo’s January issue — traditionally a slow month in the magazine world — to the number one spot of 2000. It didn’t hurt that the January issue also contains the wildly popular Bedside Astrologer. And of course, Oprah won at Oprah, but then, she only competes against herself. Incidentally, her bestseller was the second issue, July-August.
While teen phenomenon Britney Spears wasn’t number one for any of the fashion magazines, she surprisingly came in second place for Allure and third place for Elle.
Occasionally stars are featured before they’re firmly planted in the public’s consciousness. That was the case for Penelope Cruz, who appeared on Elle’s July cover and was its second lowest-selling issue last year.
“July is traditionally a slow month anyway. We were a little early on Penelope,” explained Roberta Myers, editor in chief of Elle.
While stars and supermodels stole most of the thunder in 2000, this year kicked off with stars of another sort — Olympic athletes. The Williams sisters were featured on Elle’s January cover, and Marion Jones was on Vogue’s January issue.
So what does it take to produce Olympic results on the newsstand?
“It’s the whole combination,” said Martha Nelson, managing editor of In Style. “The look of the clothes and the styling matters, all of it. The personality, the buzz about them at the moment. It’s the words, the type treatment. The whole package. That’s what makes it an art and not a science.”
“Whether it’s a strong issue, or a weak issue, the cover can make or break newsstand sales,” said Graydon Carter, editor in chief of Vanity Fair. “When you have a great cover, everything works through sheer happenstance.”
Asked why he believes Zellweger didn’t pull for Vanity Fair, Carter explained, “It was nothing about her. The cover was very yellow-y. She had just come out with a movie, ‘Me, Myself and Irene’ with Jim Carey and it wasn’t a blast-off. It could be a great issue, but the cover causes it not to do well.
“I don’t think July is a great month anyway,” he added. The July issue sold 280,000 newsstand copies. Its bestseller was the April Hollywood issue, which featured a group of rising Hollywood stars on its triple gatefold cover. The issue sold 451,612 newsstand copies.
“It also has to do with the thickness of the magazine,” Carter pointed out. “People buy magazines like they buy meat. The heavier the issue, the better,” said Carter.
Cover lines present their own challenge at VF.
“I can’t do, ‘Ten Ways to a Better Butt,’ or ‘Six Ways to Make Your Beds Sizzle.’ My cover lines are more intricate and wordy than they should be. Some are five lines. I know they’re too long, and I keep wanting to [cut them down].”
One thing he knows for sure: Women do better on VF’s cover than men. Seventy five percent of VF’s readership is women.
Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue, said she learned last year that two supermodels on a cover doesn’t work as well as a group, or an individual. Last year’s lowest seller was January, which had both Gisele and Carmen Kass on the cover. It sold 380,000 newsstand copies. “Both [models] did very well when we did them separately,” Wintour pointed out.
She said the September fashion issue — with Bridget Hall on the cover — was once again its best-selling issue of the year, with newsstand sales in the 600,000 range.
For 2001, Vogue will continue to feature both models and celebrities. “We go with celebrities that make sense to us,” said Wintour. She said she’ll continue to use a handful of models, such as Gisele, Carmen and newcomer Karolina Kurkova, a 16-year-old Czech model who’s on February’s cover and whom Wintour expects will become “the next supermodel.”
W had the most success this year with Kate Moss. Its best-selling issue, September, featured a blond Moss, and its worst seller was July, which had a blond Amber Valletta.
“I attribute that to the size of the issues,” said Patrick McCarthy, chairman and editorial director of Fairchild Publications, which publishes W,WWD and Jane. September is historically the biggest issue, and July is typically lean.W has changed its cover lines this year and made them bigger and more readable, noted McCarthy.
Jane’s bestselling issue was June-July with Angelina Jolie on the cover.
In Style, which features celebrities every month, had its bestseller in April, with Catherine Zeta-Jones on the cover. It sold more than one million newsstand copies, up 28 percent from the previous year.
“The timing was excellent,” said Nelson. “It was just at the point she announced she was having a baby. When we booked the story we didn’t know she was pregnant.”
And what went wrong with Demi Moore on October’s cover?
“I don’t know,” said Nelson. “It wasn’t linked to a particular project. It was a surprise for me, too.” It sold 827,000 newsstand copies, but was up 8 percent over last October.
The fact that Moore didn’t sell well won’t preclude Nelson from using her again. “I wouldn’t feel gun shy if Demi Moore does a great movie. I always try to learn from it. You never say never. You just never know.”
Linda Wells, editor in chief of Allure, said her cover success seems to follow a pattern. “January has been our best-selling for many years running, and March has been the worst.”
The year 2000 was no exception.
March’s cover, with Charlize Theron winking, was the worst seller of the year, but it was up over the year before. It sold 222,000 newsstand copies. That issue was the Insider’s Issue, so she’s winking because she knows the secrets.
“I was surprised,” said Wells. “We didn’t consider it a negative cover. She was in ‘Cider House Rules,’ and there was attention on her.”
The January issue, which is the special makeover issue, sold 296,000 newsstand copies and was the bestseller of the year. It featured Winona Ryder on the cover, who was appearing in the movie, “Girl, Interrupted.”
The second-best issue featured Britney Spears, which was a risk for Allure, because she’s younger than typical Allure cover girls. “It was purely the power of Britney,” said Wells. The issue sold 287,000 newsstand copies.
“Putting Britney Spears on the cover was a risk. A lot of people questioned it. A group of us really love her, but so do nine-year olds. We gave her a different haircut. She was stylish and she wore more natural makeup,” said Wells.
“Last year we really changed our strategy,” Wells added. “We shot full-face close-ups… Before we did torsos, and it looked like a lot of the other magazines We’re the only beauty magazine and we wanted to emphasize that. It really distinguished ourselves,” said Wells.
And it worked. Allure’s newsstand sales are projected to be up 4.6 percent for 2000.
Teen People had the most success with its March issue, which featured hot boy band, ‘NSync on the cover. It sold 773,000 newsstand copies. Its worst-selling issue had Jennifer Lopez (May) and sold 550,000 issues.
“Our readers love Jennifer, but this was really a timing situation,” said Christina Ferrari, outgoing managing editor. “The story focused on what happened with Puffy and the nightclub incident and we found that our readers really weren’t that interested.”
Elle ran several celebrities last year, such as Sharon Stone, Gwyneth Paltrow, Britney Spears and Salma Hayek, but had the most success with Christy Turlington. In second place was Hayek, followed by Spears.
Turlington appeared on Elle’s September blockbuster issue, which sold 352,000 newsstand copies. “She’s always done well for us,” said editor in chief Myers. In addition, she noted that Elle, like the other fashion magazines, put more issues on the newsstands in September.
Its lowest-selling issue was February, with Cindy Crawford on the cover. It sold 252,000 newsstand copies.
Of Spears’s strong results in October, Myers said, “Britney was great. It was a gamble and we knew it. She was happening.”
And as for those ever-provocative cover lines, Glamour and Cosmo may try to out-sex each other each month, but Myers contends that it’s the cover image that clinches the sale.
“Fashion magazines can get away with short cover lines. They respond to our [cover] image. If they’re interested in the cover subject, that’s the reason they buy. Cover lines are added value.”