Dear Cover Design Team…We Need to Talk

Joe Berger has a request. Okay, make that a plea. An impassioned plea.

“Why won’t you let someone from the newsstand in on the cover design meetings?” he asks in this recent blog post. “Why don’t you accept some of the recommendations when we present a simple sales by cover analysis report?”

As Berger explains, his plea comes from his perspective on the circulation end of things, and in particular the newsstand. He notes that the newsstand model has radically changed in the last few years, but there is still tremendous value in a well-designed cover.

As Berger explains (bulleted section below contains Berger’s words):

  • Newsstand is a bucket where the money comes in. Companies need money.
  • Newsstand is the public face for our magazine. It’s how people identify us, even if they don’t buy or subscribe and only see a social media feeds or a mobile site. They know the logo.
  • Even if they don’t buy the magazine, there are more than 100,000 retailers in the US and Canada where the magazine could be displayed. Face time (You know, not Facetime on Facebook, real FACE time).
  • If someone buys the magazine on the newsstand, they are paying a premium price for your work. Therefore, shouldn’t they have a premium experience when they pick it up?
  • If they like what they paid a premium for on the newsstand, they just might buy a subscription. That means the magazine gets money up front for one or two years

Seems simple enough. And here’s where Berger makes his please to include the circulation team in cover design discussions.

“If you’re trying to sell your publication to the general public, don’t you want to put the best possible face on that product and sell more copies?” he asks. “And if you’re trying to come up with something to appeal to the audience, wouldn’t you talk to people who have to sell what you designed to that audience?”

From my own perspective, I can understand some of the reluctance to open the doors to “non-designer” folks; as the saying goes, everybody wants to be an art director. And no designer wants to have to defend every detail of their cover design. “Shouldn’t that be in italic?” “What if we made that just a skoosh bigger?” We can all envision the disasters waiting to happen there.

Still, if the invitation is properly phrased, and the circulation department is asked, from their own unique perspective, how this cover might sell on the newsstand, we might all be surprised at what we learn.

“Remember: More copies sold equals more money in the pot,” Berger closes. “The accounting team will love you for that!”