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In Circulation: Knowledge from the newsstand

Magazine covers have generated a lot of buzz over the past month: Esquire‘s futuristic electronic-paper
stirred up press for the title’s 75th anniversary year.
Meanwhile, Vogue Italia‘s July issue,
featuring only black models in its editorial spreads, flew off sales racks so
fast the company has ordered a 40,000 copy reprint.

It will be interesting to see if these magazines take what’s behind their
current newsstand sales and use it to gain and keep regular subscribers in the

Drawing eyes at the newsstand — either from flashy covers, intriguing
headlines or an interesting editorial premise — can bring these magazines
one-step closer to luring new subscribers. Considering the exclusivity factor
of Vogue and Esquire, these new potential readers could very well be the types
of people that a direct campaign wouldn’t have reached. They may not fit the
usual demographic guidelines, they may be new-to-market, or perhaps they have
simply fallen through the cracks. Either way, they are potential readers who,
when confronted with a titillating newsstand presence enough, may just get

Of course, to really keep these readers, follow-up efforts like insert cards
need to align with the message that drew them in. If people picked up the new Esquire, for example, because its
electronic cover said “cutting-edge” to them, an insert card with more of a
“classic” message wouldn’t really hit home.

The techniques these titles employed to drive newsstand sales also play an
important role in building brand recognition. Sure, Vogue was already a huge name, but thanks to the hoopla surrounding
the “black issue,” the magazine may carry some extra social or cultural value
in the eyes of some readers. The same goes for Esquire; potential readers who may have confused the magazine with GQ or Men’s Vogue before may now see Esquire
as the men’s glossy for more avant-garde male fashionistas — and may be
more likely to turn to the title for their fashion needs.

Once again, though, the message or branding has to be consistent. Someone
who loved a magazine enough to buy a newsstand copy and then was convinced by
an insert card to subscribe could be disappointed if the next issue doesn’t
follow through on the brand promise. If August’s Vogue Italia features no black models, for instance, readers could
be lost, and the brand’s positive media image could be tarnished by backlash.

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