On Newsstands, Allure of the Film Actress Fades

June 6th, 2013

Signs of a trend in magazine covers with, from left, Lauren Conrad on Glamour; Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder of “The Vampire Diaries” on Entertainment Weekly; and Kim Kardashian on Cosmopolitan.

Pity the poor Hollywood film stars: they can’t open movies the way they used to and now they can’t sell magazines.

Robert Caplin for The New York Times

Joanna Coles, Cosmopolitan’s editor.

Even a few years ago, the prize for a magazine editor was in luring an A-list Hollywood star onto the cover. But just as much critical attention has shifted to television from theatrical releases, readers are now more likely to pick up a magazine featuring a television actor, reality star or musician.

“There was a day when movie stars were the gold standard for magazines,” said Jess Cagle, the managing editor of Entertainment Weekly, where the frequency and sales of TV-oriented covers are catching up with film covers. “But movie stars are less revered than they used to be, and also audiences have shifted their allegiance in large part to television.”

Glamour featured film stars on half of its covers in 2012. But the May 2012 issue featuring Lauren Conrad, the former star of the reality show “The Hills,” was the year’s best-selling issue, at 500,072 copies. The magazine now expects to make film stars the minority presence in 2013.

At Cosmopolitan, the best-selling cover this year featured Kim Kardashian in April, with 1.2 million copies sold, followed by the singer Miley Cyrus in March with 1.1 million copies. In 2012, three out of five of Cosmopolitan’s top covers featured the celebrities Demi Lovato with 1.379 million copies sold, Khlo? Kardashian at 1.354 million copies and Selena Gomez at 1.334 million copies.

Vogue’s best-selling cover in the first four months of 2013 featured Beyonc? with 340,000 copies sold. In 2012, Lady Gaga commanded the cover of Vogue’s September issue and sold nearly double the number of copies of the January 2012 issue, featuring Meryl Streep.

It’s not just younger women’s magazines that are moving away from film stars. When Redbook landed an interview with Gwyneth Paltrow for its January issue, the magazine featured her with her trainer Tracy Anderson and not in what the magazine’s editor in chief, Jill Herzig, called the “traditional A-lister in a ball gown kind of way.”

Magazine editors credit these changes to the improvement in the quality of television programs and the strength of musicians. These kinds of celebrities also are often more approachable than their film star equivalents. Lesley Jane Seymour, the editor in chief of More magazine, said that more highly regarded actors are taking parts on television instead of film and more people are watching better quality television — critical hits like “Mad Men” and “Homeland.”

While top-notch stars often remain inaccessible and surrounded by handlers, reality television stars are opening up about their struggles with weight, romance and family, which readers grasp more than the musings of a flawless film star. Television stars and musicians also connect with their fans far more frequently. Fans watch their programs on a weekly basis or hear their songs on a daily basis, compared with seeing an actor in a film once a year.

After Ms. Cyrus appeared on the March cover of Cosmopolitan, she posted to her more than 12 million Twitter followers that they should visit their newsstands and place Cosmopolitan in the front. It also spawned a hashtag #BuyMileysCosmo.

Cindi Leive, editor in chief of Glamour, called singers like Beyonc? and Rihanna the “Mick Jaggers of today” whose digital presence translates into newsstand sales.

“They do an incredible job of connecting with their fans,” she said.

That is not to say television stars overrule all film stars. When Vanity Fair published a May 2012 television issue, it was the magazine’s worst-selling issue of the year, with 183,511 copies sold. People’s recent cover featuring the actress Angelina Jolie sold a robust one million newsstand copies. Joanna Coles, editor in chief of Cosmopolitan, said celebrities like Ms. Jolie sell well because they attract varied audiences. “Angelina is not just a film star,” Ms. Coles said. “She is a spokesman for something bigger.”

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