Do Magazines Need the Kardashians More Than the Kardashians Need Magazines?

Looks like not even America's most famous family can save newsstand sales.
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Kylie Jenner's solo Cosmopolitan cover in February sold better than the group in November. Photo: Cosmopolitan

Kylie Jenner's solo Cosmopolitan cover in February sold better than the group in November. Photo: Cosmopolitan

The fashion industry has been cashing in on the Kardashian-Jenner influence since it started accepting the family into the fold in 2013 — see many buzzy front row appearances, multiple big brand campaigns, collaborations with retailers and Kendall's busy modeling career for evidence. But has fashion media been able to cash in, too? Despite never-ending pushback from a subset of readers, interest in the family, what they wear and what they sell has only increased. The proof is in the pudding — i.e. print sales and digital traffic.

But according to a WWD article on Wednesday, their print influence is waning. The trade cites Cosmopolitan's 50th anniversary November issue featuring Kris Jenner and all of her daughters as case in point: Even though Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles publicly said it sold "millions," the issue sold just 436,500 newsstand issues according to the Alliance for Audited Media. Kylie's solo February cover fared better (495,423 issues), but that's still less than the magazine's average for the first half of 2015 (531,086 issues). Three years ago, Kim's solo April cover was the magazine's best seller of 2013, reaching 1.2 million copies according to Adweek. Meanwhile at Teen Vogue, the May issue featuring Kylie beat the first half of the year's average with 48,237 issues, though that was less than Kendall's September 2014 issue which sold 72,619 newsstand issues, according to WWD

Kardashian covers have never been sure bets for fashion magazines, however. Even though Kim and Kanye's controversial Vogue cover in April 2014 sold a strong 264,421 newsstand issues according to WWD, initial reports said it fell short of the magazine's expectations and didn't outpace Beyonce's 2013 cover. Its repercussions, however, were monumental: Kim was officially Anna Wintour approved, and even old school European brands like Valentino and Chanel couldn't resist associating with the family.

But since newsstand sales are always in decline anyway, media brands looking for digital traffic, clicks, impressions and brand-building buzz can still find value featuring the family. For example, a representative for Hearst confirmed that a Cosmopolitan anniversary party (at which all the Kardashians were in attendance) in October garnered 9 million views of a Snapchat live story and 9 billion media impressions. The magazine has invested a lot in the platform and was one of the launching channels on Discover, where it reportedly sees 3 to 4 million viewers per month. Meanwhile, Cosmopolitan.com clocked 15.8 million unique visitors in October, slightly higher than the year-to-date monthly average of 15.6 million, according to data provided by Comscore. 

Even though Cosmopolitan is ginormous in comparison to indie magazine Paper, its anniversary issue didn't capture the same Internet-breaking buzz that Kim's 2014 naked cover did, which received 6.6 million page views on just the first day. Vanity Fair, however, did channel the same viral energy with its landmark Caitlyn Jenner debut cover in July, which garnered nine million unique visitors in the first 24 hours and 24 million in the first month, according to Adweek. The print issue was the magazine's most successful in five years, selling 432,923 issues at newsstands according to WWD. And over at Complex, Khloe's August/September cover story clocked over 20 million page views, according to a representative for the brand, which was double the amount of traffic the Justin Bieber cover earned the following month. Double!

Khloe Kardashian covers 'Complex.' Photo: Complex

Khloe Kardashian covers 'Complex.' Photo: Complex

Have we reached a point where magazines need the Kardashians more than the Kardashians need magazines? In a profile this year in The New York Times, matriarch/momager/mastermind Kris Jenner explained that one of her most important strategies is carefully doling out personal information in ways that benefit the family commercially. And now that each daughter has her own (not free) app, the kind of nuggets fans yearn for can always come directly from them. It's how Kim debuted Saint West's name, how Kylie shares makeup tutorials and how Kendall revealed she had been hospitalized for exhaustion. Only Caitlyn used a magazine exclusive to her benefit this year, but will she ever need that kind of experience again? 

Just featuring the Kardashian/Jenners isn't enough anymore: unless media brands orchestrate fresh and buzzy editorials, like Kylie Jenner's Interview cover photographed by Steven Klein, readers don't seem to care. Especially in print. 

Homepage photo: Kim Kardashian West and Kris Jenner at her first-ever KKW Beauty and Fragrance pop-up opening at Westfield Century City in Los Angeles. Photo: Presley Ann/Getty Images