NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Justin Bieber is a phenomenon born on YouTube, where a video from February has more than 122 million views, and a nearly constantly trending topic on Twitter, where he has 2.3 million followers. If you haven't watched a 3-year-old cry because she loves Justin Bieber, you might not understand what social media has done for, and with, the young pop singer.
But his first round of magazine-cover appearances suggest that the conversion rate between dollars and tweets is still pretty unclear. And not everyone, it seems, can cash in yet.
For the teen magazines, the boy master of social media seems to be gathering strength -- but his cover debuts were not sure things.
Joining vampires, werewolves and Jonases
It's actually tricky to pin down a Bieber effect on teen magazines because their covers run collages of lots of young celebrities, such as "Twilight" stars, Taylor Swift, the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus. And the teen market was stronger a year ago, said Popstar editor in chief Matthew Rettenmund, so current issues look weaker in comparison.
But when teen magazine Twist first added Bieber to the stable of faces on its December 2009 cover, all signs looked good. Newsstand sales topped the December 2008 issue by 14%, according to reports with the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
When J-14 magazine added Bieber to the gallery of faces on its December issue, however, it saw newsstand sales fall 13% from their level a year earlier.
Make the Bieber bigger
And Popstar magazine's January cover with the pop sensation undersold the January 2009 issue by 28.2% at Barnes & Noble, by 18.7% at Kroger and by 16% at Walgreens, according to the Magazine Information Network, also known as MagNet.
Mr. Rettenmund said it made more sense to compare the January cover against recent issues. January outsold the prior six issues by 7.6% at Kroger and 18.3% at Walgreen and undersold at Barnes & Noble by just 0.2%, according to MagNet, so that's definitely more encouraging. And the February and March/April issues, which also include Bieber on the cover, are outselling the issues before them, Mr. Rettenmund added.
J-14 is sticking with Beiber as well, according to Rachel Chang, editor-in-chief of J-14. "For us we felt like there was definitely an increase in the amount of interest and feedback," she said. "When Justin came on we put him in the back row, and he's made his way front and center. And next issue his picture is even bigger."
Now with Bieber on every page
The next issue, in fact, will include Bieber in one way or another on every single page, Ms. Chang said.
But when Bieber got his most prominent magazine treatment yet, dominating People magazine's April 19 cover in a shot he tweeted made him look "crazy as heck," newsstand customers stayed away.
The issue sold just more than 1 million copies at newsstand, about 20% below the newsstand average for early issues this year and 20% below its newsstand average in April 2009.
People's later cover with Sandra Bullock, who doesn't appear to have a Twitter account but does have an Oscar, sold more than twice as many newsstand copies.