Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Magazine covers: A dying art form

The Failed Promise of Digital Content, Part 13

Magazine covers are a dying art form.
With bold photos, graphics and headlines, magazine covers can provoke, inspire and charm. They’re designed to grab your attention and get you to buy the magazine. Editors sweat every detail of their magazine covers to gain maximum impact on the newsstand.
But with the inevitable transition to digital media, our culture will lose the magazine cover as a medium to entertain and inform.
Electronic versions of magazines won’t have the same impact. They’re not a physical product so they can’t be collected or framed. They also can’t be placed on newsstands nationwide to promote their subjects and articles.
People don’t appreciate a well-designed website like they do a great magazine cover.
Magazine covers today can become news stories themselves when they feature exclusive photos of a celebrity couple, wedding or baby; or when Time magazine crowns someone its Person of the Year; or when Sports Illustrated chooses the cover model for its swimsuit edition.
Business executives and politicians still covet getting on the glossy cover of a national news magazine. Magazine covers have value and a certain permanence that constantly changing websites can never have.
To illustrate the significance of magazine covers on our culture, I’ve compiled some recent articles from around the web.

Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston shared the news that they were engaged Wednesday by appearing on the cover of Us Weekly. (See Huffington Post article.)

Media types were buzzing this week about the fact that basketball star LeBron James had bumped actor Ryan Reynolds off the September cover of GQ. (See Styleite.)

Magazines like Entertainment Weekly promote certain issues with multiple covers and try to get fans to collect them all. (The hoped-for result: More sales.) They did this recently with the series finale of the TV show “Lost.” EW created 10 different “Lost” covers for that issue. (See EW.)

Time magazine has an online store where people can buy framed copies of its magazine covers. (See Time Cover Store.)

The covers of business magazine Fortune are celebrated on the Facebook fan page Vintage Fortune Magazine. (Feb. 23, 2014 update: This page is no longer available.)

Web Designer Depot posted a list of the most controversial magazine covers on Sept. 22, 2009. (See Web Designer Depot.)

Oddee ran its own list of the 12 most controversial magazine covers. The article, posted April 15, included covers from Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Life and the New Yorker. (See Oddee.)

Others have posted galleries of magazine covers online. They include vintage Playboy covers (Hannah Couture), Playboy covers from around the world (PBcovers.com), Steve Jobs on magazine covers (Kuo Design), the Nation Magazine Cover Archive, and a Flickr page devoted to vintage magazines such as Look, Creem, Mad and more.

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