The Art of TV Guide Making a Cover-Story from a Non-Story

March 24, 2008

Every Monday I receive by subscription edition of TV Guide, two days before it hits the newsstands. Well, last week I received my copy with a very steamy cover picture and cover lines that screams as much as the picture: “How Far Can TV Go? Is it just us…or is sex on TV steamier than ever?” My first reaction was Wow! Quite a bold move on behalf of TV Guide. Well, when I paid my Wed. visit to the newsstands I saw a completely different cover of TV Guide. Mind you that is not the first time TV Guide offers different newsstands and subscription covers. Just two weeks ago the subscribers received the political cover while the newsstands received the red carpet cover. What amazed me this time is the newsstands’ cover story on Britney Spears was not even mentioned in the subscription edition table of contents. It was item number 5 on a list of 10 Breaking News Top Stories list. Well miracles happen and the editors were able to turn the ten-lines story in the subscribers’ copies to a full two-page story in the newsstands’ copies. More pull out quotes, bigger type and a change in the table of contents announcing the story of Britney’s comeback as the cover story. The bold picture from The Tudors’ ended up on the side cropped and less sexy, much less sexy.
I read the story of the major Britney’s comeback in the two-page version and compared it to the ten-lines story. Guess what? Nothing earth shaking or different. Both stories told the same story of Britney’s comeback playing a one time guest stint of “Abby, a nerdy receptionist who falls for Ted (How I Met Your Mother”…” The episode airs tonight on CBS. Britney may have hit a “major” comeback, but I believe with this stunt TV Guide has hit a major low in the attempt of creating cover stories from non stories. It is hard to believe that the Britney Spears and Josh Radnor cover would sell more than the sexy revealing cover of Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Natalie Dorme.
In fact that is the first time that I can recall where a magazine used their “sex” cover for subscribers and their “timid, no sex” cover for single copy sales. The example below of the traditional way of doing the sex covers is from the April edition of Redbook. The sex cover is the newsstands’ edition, the non-sex cover is for subscribers. Interested in knowing the reasons for that? Check Redbook’s editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison’s response to me regarding the sex no sex cover decision making issues by clicking here.

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