February 2, 2005

EXPLAINING ELECTION 2004 BY NEWSTAND SALES:

Reagan specials top mag sales (NY Daily News)

Time and Newsweek responded to Ronald Reagan's death last June by running the same iconic portrait on their covers. Each got the same results.

The commemorative issues, showing a smiling Reagan in a cowboy hat, were the magazines' top sellers on newsstands in 2004.

Time's sale of 349,000 copies - more than twice its weekly average - exceeded the 280,000 of its Person of the Year issue. [...]

On the low end at Time were two issues with a hard economic focus. "Are Too Many Jobs Going Abroad?" - a cover story in March - was Time's worst seller, at 97,200 copies, followed closely by "Why Your Drugs Cost So Much" - a cover package by the investigative team of Donald Barlett and James Steele.

At the bottom of Newsweek's sales was "Flu Fever," a November cover that showed a crossed pair of hypodermic needles and asked "Who Should Get Shots?"

It sold fewer than 90,000 copies - the level reached by the mag's second-worst performer, "The Dirty Little Secret of the Tax Cut: Why It's Smaller Than You Think," last April.

U.S. News' clinker was "The Real John Ashcroft," at 30,000.


George Bush ran for re-election as Reagan's heir. John Kerry ran against outsourcing, John Ashcroft, flu shot availability, tax cuts, and drug costs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 2, 2005 8:54 AM
Comments

Time and Newsweek are basically Blue State publications, whose subscriber base in all probablity skews towards Kerry voters. Highlight a liberal-leaning image/article as your cover story and you're not going to get much of a pop in rack sales, because the people who would be interested in that kind of story already are paying to get the magazine in the mail.

Put something on the cover that will attract Red State readers who aren't subscribers, and then you get those big numbers, as with the Reagan issues. Obviously, balancing the covers and interior stories between the two political sides would be the best way to keep sales up without alienating one side or the other, but I'm sure the staffers at Time and Newsweek enjoyed doing the Reagan tributes about as much as going to the dentist without novicane. Even if the business side and top managers did try to put in a more profitable "fair and balanced" model, the editorial side would fight it tooth and nail without a major housecleaning.

Posted by: John at February 2, 2005 9:46 AM

Similar to Orrin's Eric/Julia Roberts hobby horse I've long been convinced that Time and Newsweek are actually the same magazine.

Posted by: Governor Breck at February 2, 2005 10:12 AM

Worth noting is Newsweek's current cover.

"Who are the inusrgents (in Iraq), and WHY ELECTIONS WON'T MATTER" (!!)

Hmmm.

Well, points for the courage of sticking their necks out. It is not impossible that that cover could be a hugely embarrassing 'Dewey Defeats Truman' in about 60 days. And it looks like it's heading that way.

Another smash to the MSM.

Posted by: Andrew X at February 2, 2005 10:32 AM

"George Bush ran for re-election as Reagan's heir."

And he derived a slight spike in approval rating in the days immediately following Reagan's death. But his campaign didn't push the analogy very hard, a strategy that likely followed from the perception that W. would fare badly in a comparison with the Gipper, in the minds of most.

"Time and Newsweek are basically Blue State publications..."

Newsweek has been little better than a tabloid since roughly the Lewinsky years, with Time a single but significant step above that, barring the occasional "What the...?" moment, like darkening O.J. Simpson's face for one cover.

That said, I doubt the sales totals reflect politics. They reflect the difference in popularity between soft and hard news. The article quoted here is fairly clear on this: "On the low end at Time were two issues with a hard economic focus." The Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston break-up issues of Us and People are probably selling nearly as well as the Reagan retrospectives.

"Who are the inusrgents (in Iraq), and WHY ELECTIONS WON'T MATTER"

In the short run, at least, it seems pretty clear that elections will make no difference to insurgents or terrorists in Iraq. In the long term, it certainly does, but when did _any_ media outlet, MSM or otherwise, ever do a good job of evaluating that?

Posted by: M. Bulger at February 2, 2005 4:26 PM

Short run's lookin' pretty good to me....

(knock knock)

Posted by: Andrew X at February 2, 2005 5:21 PM
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