Recently a publication called Car Magazine did what may be a first for the magazine industry: they differentiated their magazine cover for subscribers.
Here is the cover you will see on newsstands or any shop:
And here is the cover of the exact same issue a subscriber will see when they pick their copy up from the post office or download on it their tablet:
Ramsay Media, owner of the magazine, had this to say on their decision to give subscribers an artistic cover: "A creative cover that can be appreciated for its own sake, uncluttered by the marketing messages of newsstand copies." In a world of cluttered 3D covers with those ugly smart phone barcodes, this simple illustration shows yet again that elegance trumps fad.
Editor Hannes Oosthuizen added: “With these beautiful, elegant covers, we hope they [the subscribers] will feel appreciated and special. The emphasis will be on covers that will look good on any coffee table, and will be striking enough to be a conversation point.”
Note those words: "striking enough to be a conversation point."
Subscribers don't need the cover to tell them what's inside; they're going to open the magazine and read it by virtue of being subscribed. They will appreciate a clean artistic shot more than a busy cover. Usually people want to hide magazines away because they're an eyesore in a home, but this can look good next to your collection of fine literature.
Car Magazine's team realises that for the cover to become a "conversation point" it has to look different to other covers. It cannot look like a magazine. Their cover used on newsstands is a necessary evil as a person walking past must spot an interesting road test or report on the cover if they're going to buy the magazine. There's no time to arouse curiosity in a shopping isle with fancy photography: people have to immediately know what they're getting or they keep walking. The cover has to be factual. But in the home of a friend where there is less distraction and rush, people have time to indulge their curiosity and the subscriber cover does that better.
People always like pretty things, if you want to look at it more simply. In a world where people have a renewed appreciation for the aesthetic element in everything they buy, this cover differentiation will provide an additional incentive to become a subscriber.