Re: Black men sell newsstand covers.
If you want to sell copies in December, go with the black guy.
I know it is simplistic and possibly not even true but it felt as if there was a memo that the magazine editors all received. A quick pass of the newsstands had me taking a second glance.
For December issues there were five "mainstream" magazine covers featuring black men. I believe that was the first time so many magazines have featured black men on the cover at the same time. Here's the list:
GQ -- Kanye West (one of three Men of the Year); Esquire -- Denzel Washington (group shot); Time -- Barack Obama; Men's Vogue -- Will Smith (great move since his movie "I Am Legend" set box-office records); Fortune -- LeBron James
It shouldn't be a big deal and it's definitely not the first time that a black man has been on the cover of these general-market magazines (GQ for example, has featured black models since 1977 and Sammy Davis was the first celebrity), But it is not too long ago -- actually, it probably still happens -- that stories would swirl about the low newsstand sales worries and subscriber complaints when women's magazines featured black women on their covers. And that's saying nothing of the risk of featuring them on the months that were most crucial (spring/fall) to magazine newsstand sales.
Portfolio.com comments on the trend in "Black Is the New White for Men's Vogue." As the writer points out, women's Vogue has only had three black female celebrities on its cover in recent memory: Oprah Winfrey; Academy Award winner Halle Berry; and in March, Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson. (They've done better with models, but not by much.) Vanity Fair has featured only five black people solo on the cover in the past 15 years.
The importance that editors place on covers can make or break their careers and there is considerable research and feedback from subscribers on which celebrities move copies, which words to use and the colors that resonate with readers. The newsstand competition is quite stiff so there is no room for goodwill and feel-good gestures. Jobs and money are on the line every month.
So what does it mean? Maybe it's nothing more than coincidence. Or maybe it could be a trend. What cannot be denied is the selling power and cross-over appeal and success that can come from inclusion and access. It would definitely be a "white" Christmas without the contributions of these major forces of talent in every aspect of our popular culture, music, film, sports, business and politics.
Now if only the staff on these magazines reflected the same diversity.