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The newsstand might have been rough for many publishers in 2011, but there were some bright spots, particularly for specific issues. We often see lists dedicated to the best-designed covers of the year, or the most popular, but MagNet, a newsstand sales and marketing information provider, has released a list of the top ten performing covers based on sales data.
The firm tracks about 12,000 titles sold in about 175,000 retail stores in the U.S. and Canada. For this list, it pulled and combined wholesaler sales information and retailer point-of-sale data. "We assign the sales to the covers and then we index the covers against the previous averages—4 issues, 12 issues and 18 issues," says Gil Brechtel, MagNet's president and CEO.
The covers that indexed the highest against previous sales made the list. "While other lists take a more subjective look, our list is effective because it's based on the largest growth in sales compared to previous issues," says Brechtel.
In other words, these may not be the top grossing issues of the year, but they're the best performing ones against a title's previous issue averages.
Cover lines and design breakthroughs aside, the list does reinforce the the power of special content themes on the newsstand.
UPDATE: And speaking of special issues, it's important to note here that they're often created with separate product IDs, so the performance comparisons should be considered within that same ID only. For example, the National Geographic title below was done in partnership with Time Home Entertainment, and did not necessarily outperform all other special issues done by either National Geographic or Time Home Entertainment—just the ones in that same product ID.
National Geographic [in partnership with Time Home Entertainment]
This special on the magazine's greatest photographs, done in partnership with Time Home Entertainment, sold more than 109,700 copies, indexing 300 percent higher than previous issues under the same product ID.
Selling about 87,000 copies, this special issue featuring readers' top recipes indexed 175 percent better than the average of the previous four issues.
This special wedding issue sold 151,500 copies, beating the previous 12-month average by 80,000 copies.
This family special issue sold 56,000 more units than the previous 8-issue average, a 188 percent increase.
Who doesn't like Thanksgiving? This October issue sold more than 516,000 copies, beating the previous 12-issue average by 261 percent.
This commemorative SIP about Liz Taylor sold 134,000 copies at retail, a 333 percent increase over the previous 4-issue average.
July 1, 2011
This double issue featuring Harry Potter sold 123,000 copies at retail, a 129 percent increase over the previous 12 issue sales average.
October 17, 2011
This Steve Jobs cover was one of the top selling of the many Steve Jobs covers following his death. It sold 165,00 copies, 137 percent better than the previous 12-issue average.
June 6, 2011
This issue doubled the sales average of the previous twelve, selling more than 51,000 copies on the newsstand.
March 28/April 4, 2011
This doomy double-issue cover helped beat the previous 12-issue average by 113 percent, selling 83,000 copies.