The Viral Power of the Magazine Cover

9-11-coversSomething interesting is happening to magazine covers. Rather than facing extinction like so many predicted with the dawn of digital media, covers are finding new audiences and viral love.

Catherin Taibi in the Huffington Post notes that digital – in spite of the dire warnings – has not replaced print media.

“In fact, it has breathed new life into magazines’ unique marriage of imagery and words. Digital isn’t killing the cover; it’s saving it — albeit not in the way many industry-watchers envisioned,” Taibi notes.

“The introduction of tablets and ereaders was supposed to revive the industry. ‘Apple’s Tablet Could Be Print Industry’s Lifeboat,’ Wired wrote in 2009. But the tablet didn’t replace the magazine,” Taibi continues. “In fact, nearly 30 percent of Americans said they have never read a magazine on an electronic device, according to a HuffPost/YouGov survey conducted in March.”

What Americans are doing, in large numbers, is sharing magazine covers digitally. And publishers are responding by offering creative “behind the scenes” documentation of the covers they produce.

“The New Yorker is just one publication experimenting with bringing the reader ‘behind the scenes.’ The magazine has a Snapchat account it uses to give an inside look at how the cover was made,” Taibi notes. “[New Yorker art editor Francoise] Mouly and her team typically talk about the inspiration behind the art and the steps that led to the final product,” Taibi writes, referencing the iconic post-9-11 cover.

“Bloomberg Businessweek is doing it as well,” she continues.  “In 2013, it launched a series called Cover Trail in both digital and print, a guest pass into the cover-making process. The series brings readers into the design room, giving them an open, often funny look at how each cover is made.”

Consumers, meanwhile, are engaging with these covers as works of public art and virtual memes, sharing them freely and engaging with the brand in new ways made possible by digital. The ability of the well-designed cover to inspire emotion gives it true power to connect and create wider brand recognition.

So much more than just the cover in the newsstand, the iconic magazine cover – designed for print but widely shared via digital – is an example of the intersection where print and digital meet today’s multi-channel reader.