The latest Alliance for Audited Media data is out, and as is almost always the case, Jennifer Aniston proved to be the one of the most valuable cover stars around. Aniston, who is rumored to be marrying actor Justin Theroux within the next couple of weeks, was InStyle‘s best performing cover of 2012, helping the magazine to sell 793,588 newsstand copies of the March issue.
As Fashionista previously reported, other big newsstand winners were Lady Gaga and Adele (both on the cover of Vogue, fronting the mag’s most important fall and spring fashion issues, respectively–which typically tend to be the biggest and best-selling issues regardless of cover girl). But those two pop stars were anomalies in the group. Their peers, including Rihanna and Taylor Swift, performed poorly on the newsstands. Swift, for instance, covered five magazines and not one of them was a best-seller (some were certifiable failures).
It’s easy to suggest that recognition and familiarity has something to do with Aniston’s ongoing success over newcomers like Swift. But then you look at Lauren Conrad, who was Glamour‘s top seller last year. Conrad is inarguably a less-recognized celebrity than Swift, and she’s got way less going on right now. (Or ever, really.) But for some reason, she sells magazines.
On the surface, Aniston and Conrad have little in common. One is a comedic actress who has been married to one of the most famous men in the world, suffering plenty of heartbreak for the world to see. The other is a former reality tv star devoid of any type of real scandal–even when she dates a celebrity, no one really seems to care. (Though, to be fair, LC did suffer some very public heartbreak on Laguna Beach and The Hills.)
But they are both likable and relatable, at least to the majority of women who buy magazines on the newsstand. That “likability factor” is the key to both women’s cover success, says Robert Thompson, a pop culture professor at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “People find them both likable and comforting,” says Thompson. “There are people who are really good at acting, people who are really good at singing and performing, people who are good at being kooky. It is a unique skill to be someone who is really good at living a life that is interesting to people who like to read about celebrities in magazines.”
Of course, there are other factors involved in why a magazine sells well or doesn’t: Cover art is a big one, as is cultural equity. “Jennifer Aniston is associated with a lot of famous people, and she’s been famous for a long time,” says Thompson. But when it comes down to it, the most important thing is that people can relate to you. While Taylor Swift may be beautiful and young and willing to say crazy things, women aren’t connecting with her the same way they do Aniston, or even Conrad. That may say little about her ability to entertain, but it does say a lot about her ability to sell a product when her true talent (singing and songwriting) isn’t on display. Maybe Keds should hire Conrad next time.
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