Time's Perfect Controversy: Advertisers, Retailers Fine With Breast-Feeding Cover

Gets More Subscription Orders Online in One Day Than the Whole Week Before

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Time may have just stoked the perfect controversy: It got everybody talking but made very few people actually angry.

The cover that got everyone's attention without creating real problems
The cover that got everyone's attention without creating real problems

The magazine's "Are You Mom Enough?" cover showing a mother breast-feeding her three-year-old son generated an enormous surge of talk on Thursday, some of it negative.

"You missed the mark!" actress Alyssa Milano wrote on Twitter. "You're supposed to be making it easier for breastfeeding moms. Your cover is exploitive & extreme."

Mika Brzezisnki, co-host of "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, said the cover didn't match the feature, which focuses on a doctor's case for "attachment parenting" and barely covers "extended breast-feeding."

"I'll tell you why it bothers me," she said about the cover. "Because it's a profile of Bill Sears!"

But retailers and ad buyers don't seem bothered.

Time didn't warn advertisers or proactively move any out of the issue, but said it's received no complaints from them. Advertisers in the issue include Toyota, Discover, Chevron, Chase, Kellogg's and HBO.

Ad buyers said they had received no complaints from their marketer clients.

"Honestly, I don't expect much fanfare from our clients," said George Janson, managing partner and director of print at Group M. "I don't see how the provocative nature of the cover is any different than some of the provocative content on television or the web. One could argue it's tame in comparison."

Readers and advertisers might not expect Time covers like this, but in a sense it's the same thing the magazine does every week, according to Robin Steinberg, exec VP-director of publishing investment and activation at MediaVest. "They deliver thought-provoking editorial that creates a debate and lets the consumer form an opinion," she said. "The surprise and shock was that there was a woman on the cover who was half-naked. But it's not porn, it's attachment parenting."

Time 's 'extended breastfeeding' cover on display as normal at Hudson News this morning.
Time 's 'extended breastfeeding' cover on display as normal at Hudson News this morning.

One or two smaller retailers are either covering up the cover or carrying the issue on their magazine racks instead of at checkout, according to Time , but most seem blasé.

Hudson News, which sometimes obscures covers that it considers too racy, had no problem with the Time cover.

"There was no conversation," said Laura Samuels, VP-corporate communications at Hudson News, in an email. "Hudson News locations displayed the magazine as usual. The cover story topic is clearly one that will spark much national debate. People will want to read this issue, and it is our role (as well as our commitment to the publisher) to offer the magazine for sale to our customers."

Supermarket chains are sensitive about what shoppers see at checkouts, but they often don't stock Time at checkout anyway, according to Gil Brechtel, president-CEO of Magazine Information Network, or MagNet, which tracks magazine sales.

"The outlets that sell Time magazine are mainly terminals and bookstores, and they are more open and flexible when it comes to cover treatment," Mr. Brechtel said. "Because newsstand sales are mostly driven by impulse, I would think that this issue will do well compared to the average."

Time said it sold more online subscriptions Thursday than it did all of last week.

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