As Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni writes, the cover shot still has massive cachet.
“The editors I speak with regularly say that when politicians or celebrities are interviewed, they never fail to ask if they’re cover material,” Husni writes. “They don’t care about being featured on the web, on social media, on an app, on in any kind of digital space. All they care about is whether they will be on the cover of the printed magazine.”
It’s the carrot dangled to secure that VIP interview or exclusive behind-the-scenes access … and that’s not likely to change. Yet ultimately it’s the editor’s choice of what makes it to the final layout … and the social sphere is sure to chime in.
Husni points to Vice President Kamala Harris’ appearance on the February issue of Vogue as the perfect example.
“Vogue’s choice of cover photos for its February 2021 edition, with Harris wearing jeans and sneakers, was met by a tsunami of comments on social media accusing the magazine of ‘whitewashing’ the vice president and showing disrespect for her by publishing such a casual, informal image,” Husni writes.
Vogue has since announced they’d print a limited split cover with the more formal photo that was meant to be digital-only — a strategy that Husni says is not uncommon.
“InStyle magazine is a perfect example. Look at its February issue — subscribers get one cover with minimal cover line treatment, a title that you can barely see, and a full-body shot of actress and director Regina King. Newsstands get another cover with a very large and bold cover line and a large, close-up shot of King,” Husni explains.
Certainly, in our present times, politics play a massive role in what the editor ultimately chooses … from the New Yorker to Time’s iconic Person of the Year cover choices. And social media is a brutal backdrop where the “wrong” cover can be skewered mercilessly … or showered with praise.
Husni raises the critical question when it comes to cover choice:
“Social media is now a battering ram that can force editors to change their minds and produce covers to placate those on social platforms. My question is, are those people commenting on social media actually customers of the magazine?”
When we edit for the masses, we neglect our tried and trusted audience. And as Husni notes, “[w[hen everybody is an editor, nobody is an editor.”
It’s a fascinating point Husni makes, and one worth considering in everything you publish. Who are you publishing it for?