Magazines sell big when they put their best faces forward Beauty pageant: With the likes of Oprah, Whitney Houston and Cindy Crawford, periodicals catch the eye, then reel in the reader.

April 02, 1996|By Paul D. Colford | Paul D. Colford,NEWSDAY

NEW YORK -- The media and those who rule the media seem to generate increasing amounts of news ink and air time, especially in the broadcasting and publishing capital of New York. But in the nationwide beauty pageant of newsstand sales, media titans were not even among the finalists last year.

Time Warner Chairman Gerald Levin, whose every public utterance is covered by news organizations, was on the cover of Business Week's and Forbes' worst-selling issues in 1995.

Michael Ovitz, then the omnipotent head of the Creative Artists Agency and now president of Walt Disney Co., graced the cover of Newsweek's second-worst-selling issue last year.

"If it's big in Hollywood, it doesn't necessarily play big in Peoria," said Steven Cohn, editor of Media Industry Newsletter, based in New York, which in recent weeks has listed the best and worst sellers of the year ended. The newsletter's findings offer a useful reality check on who's hot, and maybe not, and which stories stir interest among the millions of Americans who buy magazines at newsstands and supermarket checkouts.

Continuing a run as a cover girl with a magic touch, Oprah Winfrey produced bestsellers last year for Fitness, Essence (its 25th-anniversary issue), Runner's World (her weight-loss regimen), and even the feminist magazine Ms. (with Phil Donahue and Ricki Lake).

Winfrey also had a No. 2 seller -- behind Whitney Houston -- when she was on the cover of Redbook.

Supermodel Cindy Crawford fronted the biggest newsstand performers in 1995 of Esquire (the August "Women We Love" issue) and of InStyle, Time Inc.'s new success story, which presents celebrities in their homes.

Julia Roberts was the top draw last year for Harper's Bazaar and Ladies' Home Journal, where she supplanted Kathie Lee Gifford (No. 2 in 1995) as the magazine's best draw.

Ms. Gifford, who seems to move from women's mag to women's mag each month, graced McCall's No. 1 seller for the second consecutive year.

Vanity Fair's April Hollywood issue, which showed Jennifer Jason Leigh and Nicole Kidman in undergarments and folded out into a total of three panels featuring scantily clad actresses, was the magazine's biggest newsstand hit of all time. It earned loads of media attention and sold 607,000 copies.

One of the more striking covers of 1995 was Sports Illustrated's Aug. 21 issue featuring baseball great Mickey Mantle, who had died the week before. Except for SI's logo, there were no words, only a portrait of Mick as a boyish rookie in 1951.

It was SI's strongest seller - behind, of course, the magazine's league-of-its-own swimsuit special.

A month after Mantle's passing, Rolling Stone offered a similar presentation following the death of Jerry Garcia, whose bushy visage took up the entire cover. It was the rock magazine's No. 1 seller.

Larry Hagman (as he recovered from a liver transplant) gleamed on the worst-selling issue of People, a magazine that is a bellwether of fame if there ever was one. The weekly scored its highest single-copy sales last year with the "50 Most Beautiful People" issue, which showcased Courteney Cox of "Friends" (along with insets of George Clooney and Halle Berry).

Nevertheless, Mr. Clooney, a co-star of NBC's "ER" and recently picked to be the new Batman, was on the cover of Us magazine's worst seller, a special issue in April that identified the rising stars of 1995.

Other rising stars unable to ring lots of newsstand cash registers were the actors Ethan Hawke (Rolling Stone's worst seller), Andy Garcia (GQ's worst) and Matt LeBlanc (YM's worst), as well as the rocker P.J. Harvey (Spin's worst).

Here's further evidence that David Caruso should have stuck with "NYPD Blue": Entertainment Weekly had its softest sales with him on the cover.

More-surprising names in the worst-selling category were Jay Leno (Esquire), Andie MacDowell (Redbook), Jessica Lange (Vanity Fair), Sigourney Weaver (InStyle), Elizabeth Taylor (Good Housekeeping), Dolly Parton (Ladies' Home Journal), Sharon Stone (Harper's Bazaar) and Whoopi Goldberg (McCall's).

The May 1 covers of Time and Newsweek on the Oklahoma City bombing helped make them top sellers for the news weeklies, which received further evidence that foreign news may be of less interest to their readers.

Of Time's three worst-selling issues, two had cover stories about Bosnia.

A year earlier Newsweek's two biggest newsstand duds featured covers dealing with the Balkan strife.

Pub Date: 4/02/96

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