Dismissing Paolo Pellegrin’s portrait of Mario Monti as a stock photo for a heart disease ad, Jon Stewart takes Time magazine to task for the lightweight cover stories on its American editions. The current issue, shown above, the American edition of the magazine has a cover about animal friendships, while the worldwide editions have a cover featuring Italian prime minister Mario Monti. This isn’t the first time there’s been such a disparity between the various editions, though it’s not always the Americans who get the lightweight cover.
This is pretty easy criticism that shows up every time this happens with Time, and it isn’t entirely fair. The different covers make Time look bad, but if anything, a closer look shows that the difference between the editions reflects more poorly on the American news consumer than on Time magazine. The contents of the US and various international editions is basically the same; both cover stories are in all editions. The covers are used primarily to attract readers at the newsstand, and this has got to be the reason behind different covers for different markets. In the US, the magazine is on stands in grocery stores and airports alongside fluffier magazines. Time needs to compete with the likes of O, People, and Cat Fancy. Outside of the US (in my experience, anyway) the magazine is most often sold in locations frequented by business and government travelers next to copies of the International Herald Tribune and the Economist. I don’t have Time’s per-issue circulation figures at hand, but I’d bet the lighter covers sell much better in the US than covers relating to hard news and international affairs. So, while I’m usually on board with Jon Stewart’s comedy, I think the Daily Show’s reading of Time magazine’s covers misses the mark with a simple reading of the magazine and its marketing.
Be sure to check out this short video of Pellegrin’s less-than-15 minute portrait shoot with Monti.
And also on the subject of newsweekly covers, here’s a look at all the cover options Newsweek tried for its recent sex issue.