Selling a Book by its Cover

by Dan Ward

News magazines used to cover war.  Now they’re engaged in a Cover War.

In the event you haven’t opened a newspaper, turned on the TV or logged into Facebook over the past week, you may be unaware of the war that is being waged between Time and Newsweek, a war to see who can produce the most provocative cover and force consumers to give them a second look.

It started with Time’s decision to publish a cover with a photo of a young mother breastfeeding her 3-year-old son.  Newsweek quickly followed with a headline naming Barack Obama our first “gay president,” under a cover photo of the commander in chief under a rainbow-hued halo.

The covers are meant to provoke, to generate strong positive or negative reactions that will drive consumers to plunk down a few dollars to see what’s inside.

We often talk about provocative communication for our clients, developing messaging strategies that can break through the clutter and the “information overload” so that audiences will stop to listen. But we also advise clients that once you have your audience’s attention, you better have something to say.  What will engage them? What will educate them?  What will persuade them?  And most importantly, what will convince them to keep coming back for more?

It’s not enough just to provoke.  There are plenty of shiny pennies out there and today’s hot topic can easily become yesterday’s news.

Time and Newsweek have grabbed our attention.  The question now is whether they can keep it.

One Response to Selling a Book by its Cover

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