Men’s Health Caught Recycling Coverlines

- - Magazines

Mediaite picked up a story that Perez Hilton ran about Men’s Health using the same coverlines from 3 years ago (here) on their December issue and they have a quote from Zinczenko defending the practice.

Most magazines recycle coverlines. Maybe there’s a little rewording or maybe they just lift one off an old cover, but it’s not unusual to refer to a cover book for inspiration when writing lines. I’ve heard that Time Inc. has a book where words, colors and cover subjects have sales numbers attached to them (that’s why you see so many Jesus covers on Time) for further insight into how things will perform on the newsstand.

The problem is not the recycled coverlines, it’s the recycled content. There are only a limited number of ways you can say the same thing over and over again and magazines keep reaching for the same high performing content to keep the ship afloat a little bit longer. For a magazine like Men’s Health they actually create content specifically for the newsstand and in many cases it’s fluff so they can write a line that contains the magic words “sex, abs, best body, ultimate….” Rodale is notorious for fluffy coverlines that have very little payoff inside (not to mention fake numbers). I think we’re all very aware by now that magazines are digging their own grave.

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There Are 42 Comments On This Article.

  1. I don’t understand. Is it laziness or cheapness that makes magazines continue to regurgitate the same crappy content? In either case, I would think that some smart person, in some position, would realize that people are tired of it and commit to providing better content, that’s different from the competitors, in order to move ahead of the pack.

    Maybe I’m just a naive photographer.

  2. I do buy Men’s Health off the new stand and recently I have subscribed. I never read these ridiculous articles and I never buy it for the cover. I buy it because I enjoy the editorial content with some teeth. I also like the sidebar section, the articles on clothing style (god I miss Cargo!) and the Tech articles. And, of course, the photography!

    I also like the competition, Men’s Journal, because a friend of mine, Doug Stanton, write great articles for them in the tradition of real men going on adventures and risking their lives for the sake of others.

  3. So I guess I’m saying… I expect this type of B.S. on the cover and it does not change why or why not I would buy the magazine. I’m still going to be interested in the content of this magazine. I’m also still going to ignore these articles. If this content allows the magazine to gain readership or stay afloat, OK, so be it. I’m buying it to read the good stuff and look at interesting photographs, not look at photographs of guys doing sit-ups with sprayed-on oil and read about “Hot Sex Tips.”

  4. most people get a gift subscription for a year and never renew. they’re long gone by the tine the content is recycled….

  5. Um, is anyone surprised? Seriously? Men’s Health is certainly the worst offender in this respect, and to be honest, I would be surprised if it hasn’t been done before.

  6. Of course magazines like this have have to recycle stuff! I am a sport scientist and there is only so much new stuff that is worth a damn published each month. The methods to get a particular body shape are not a miracle cure. They are almost the same as a few years ago with such refinements that if you are not a s&c coach you won’t know the difference.

    The photography is cool and that’s why I sometimes buy. I like to figure the lighting used. If pretty ladies are involved I don’t mind

  7. The last time I looked in that rag (years ago) the articles were crap. Full of advertorial references. Reminiscent of fashion rags crediting the scent the cover talent is modeling. Their photography wasn’t much better. This is Cosmo for young men.

  8. Who is surprised, no one. I used to get AD, Food & Wine, Gourmet, Triathlon, Cycling, even the professional journal’s I got would recycle.

    The Good One have updates to the previous, even if it is good or bad news/content. Maybe instead of being superficial with the depth of the content they could go deeper, even more emotional. (just thinking out loud) I think some of the interviews here do that. (I miss cargo & desert camo, so I go to my local base and buy some battle dress pants) Sorry Greg .

    Hey Ihave a silly idea, maybe, why don’t some of us creative types meet at a starbucks and have a few MDG’s and come up with a new mag or if we want to think outide the box we can get and import brew or we can go to pete’s. LOL

  9. Позор. Это просто позор даже не редактору, а уж дизайнерам точно!

  10. This (crappy) magazine is destined to young, urban, single, athletic men that would do everything they possibly can to look “cool”. They are all clones of each others. It’s no wonder to me that even the magazine covers are clones now. The same content, over and over again, that’s all they want!

  11. I’m not surprised. Over the years, with the magazines I’ve subscribed to, when I realize that I’m reading the same stuff over, that’s when I don’t renew. Presently, I’m not subscribing to anything.

  12. I used to do about $1000 per year on subscriptions and newstands, now that number is Zero — if it wasn’t for cashing in airline miles, there wouldn’t be any magazines in the mail box.

    I’m amazed catalogs still keep coming… smaller than ten years ago but still trucking along. Who fills out order forms anymore?

  13. The archetype of this genre must be Ski magazine. You can almost write the glowing drivel they’ll lavish on advertisers in the coming year, with extra heavy doses in their “resort annual” and “buyer’s guide.” What are they going to say, “this years’ skis offer only minor cosmetic changes over last year’s stuff, so save your money”?

    While laughable, it’s virtually inevitable given how tightly boxed in many special-interest magazines are in terms of subject matter. As others have said, exactly what is new and novel about situps this year as opposed to last, or the year before that? These are titles dedicated to a niche of advertisers, not a niche of readers. The only real surprise is that we think they would do any better than they do.

    If statistics were available, I imagine they’d show the typical length of a subscriber is 2-3 years, as people take up a new interest (e.g., skiing), read up on it, and move on to something else (e.g., kite-boarding).

    Compare that approach to the better general-interest magazines, which can mix it up across a wide range of topics. We all know people who have collections of National Geographic going back a half century or more, but how many people have a long collection of Muscle&Fitness?

    • @Kevin, back in the late 1980s I was producing a video, using a tech writer for one of the Petersen books, as an on screen expert. He said that their average reader bought the magazine for 18 months! Doubt if that has changed much.

      Petersen Publishing did special-interest books. Guns & Ammo, Hot Rod, Motorcyclist, Photographic, Teen and many more. General interest titles may do better.

  14. There certainly seems to be a pattern here.

    If you had to pick the best outdoor/adventure (or any single sport) mag. on the stand today…what would it be? Is there anything on the horizon that sets a new standard?

    If you could build your own model what would that be.

    I believe I understand the problem with content becoming furniture.

    What steps need to be taken to elevate magazine design to a new level
    and will quality reporting/images pay the bills?

    • @Gary Miller,

      During the late 80′s and all through the 90′s I spent between $300 to $600 a month on magazines. It was my crack. I now only buy magazines when I fly (still a lot…) and I grab Outside, Vanity Fair, GQ and occasionally Esquire. Great writing and photography and I usually read them cover to cover. I now get most of my pop culture fix online and spend my money on books.

      • @Victor John Penner, Pretty much from the same mold. Growing up in a small town, magazines were my eyes to the world and offered the hope of travel and new cultures. Later they suplimented my education in the outdoors,climbing,martial arts and a career in photography. In boxes I have the old Look and Life issues from the Kennedy years. It’s hard to think that what I see today offers historic value……..but maybe to some kid in a small town it still does?

  15. that SO explains why the article inside hardly (of a lot of mags – never read this one) ever matches the title it was given on the cover!

  16. maybe they should take a note from somewhere like TED and actually go find interesting, relevant people to talk to?

    • @Tim,

      Remember the David Carson era of surf magazines? Those were exciting times. You’d pick up his magazine and be challenged, visually, (in a good way).

  17. No! Please, the excuse regarding a subscription vs. newstand cover is lame. It’s lazy, just because those headlines sell better on the stands does not mean that you stop trying to improve or change layout. This is further indication of how very far journalistic standards have sunk. A good company should always try and improve upon what works, not recycle it.

  18. I dont think I ever walked by and saw an issue of mens health that didnt have some reference to abs and your sex life on the cover I always noticed it and thought it was sort of a joke. The inside related content to it is the same too, do sit ups of some sort, and mix up your sex routine to keep it fresh. That about covers it in a nutshell am I wrong?

  19. “who cares” sums up a lot of magazine” issues” at once, both specifically and in general … it would be nice to see an American mag again I could really care about again. Is that just me? Yeah, yeah, i know, you don’t care either …

  20. Magazines that have nothing new to report and that simply run pretty much the same story over and over again serve a purpose… they are easy to digest for people who are only interested in the same old story.

    Sure it’s a very low standard and this is a reflection of mass market sensibilities. Low-brow is big business!

    Just look at TV sit-com plots, humor and characterizations and you’ll see basically the same phenomenon at work.

    Who sells more papers, the New York Times or the National Enquirer?

  21. It is certainly not the first nor will it be the last. I’ve noticed this in print (including novels), television and cinema. I think ideas are always regurgitated but pilfering the exact copy is a but much.

    PS. I would have to speculate The National Enquirer Steve…

  22. is this par for the course, or is Men’s Health following Nat Geo Adventure (http://www.aphotoeditor.com/2009/12/03/national-geographic-adventure-calls-it-quits/).

    I flipped through the last issue of Adventure (before I knew of its demise) and noticed a really old, obviously recycled, image of a ski mountaineer heading one of their articles.
    I thought it was odd the Nat Geo would use an old image….’can’t they buy recent content?”

    I found out the answer the next day, ‘no, they’re out of business’.

  23. I wanted to buy magazine subscriptions for all my Christmas presents this year but I’m getting convinced otherwise when I see stuff like this Men’s Health cover.

  24. I have their December issue with Taylor Lautner on the cover and the cover lines pictured above are completely different from those of my magazine. I’m not sure if this is because its the Canadian version which may be different than the American issue, I don’t know if there’s a difference.