Magazine Covers That Matter

Nope, print's not dead: Publicists reveal the six strategies they use when deciding whom to put on the front of which New York-based glossy

Monetize a Star

Today's stars rarely depend just on TV or film paychecks, instead using covers "to establish a reason for consumers to buy their product," says one PR insider. Appearing on Cosmopolitan, Allure, Lucky or Self can help them peddle a line (Heidi Klum's Wildlife jewelry for QVC) or lock in a contract (Zooey Deschanel's Rimmel London deal). 

Create an Edge

If ever in danger of becoming too broad or bland, talent heads to W. "Landing a provocative feature shows a darker side," says Truth in Consulting's Linda Ong. Brangelina's subversive domesticity on July 2005's cover crowned them Hollywood's coolest couple; Kim Kardashian's October 2010 cover expanded her reach beyond tabloids.

Enhance a Narrative

When celebrities want to be seen as more than mere actors, they try for Vanity Fair. Redemption is a favored arc, as is "I'm still relevant, and this picture proves it" (Demi Moore's pregnancy, Tom Cruise's family). "It's where you go to show, 'I was a mess, and now I'm saved,' " says a branding insider. 

Promote a Movie

"Go to one place that is the right mix of all other publications for mass promotion," says one high-level publicist, who recommends Vogue, InStyle, GQ and Details. "If you do too many, consumers may not be tempted to buy a movie ticket to see even more of you." For female stars, Vogue, says Ong, "has the power to anoint a new A-list star." 

Ride the Zeitgeist

For that, it's Rolling Stone. "Getting the cover signals the subject is at the white-hot center" of pop culture, says Ong. Gossip Girl creator Josh Schwartz identifies Blake Lively and Leighton Meester's 2009 cover as "the pinnacle" of the show's popularity. In August 2010, RS anointed AMC's Mad Men "the best show on TV."

Gain Mass Appeal

Embody the everywoman on the covers of Ladies' Home Journal, Redbook and Good Housekeeping, which remain some of the highest-circulation publishing titles (between 2 and 4 million). Says Ong: "LHJ makes any A-list celeb feel like the girl next door." Raise your relatability rating again by being featured for being a new mom.