Monday, May 07, 2012
Best Canadian Cover? You Decide
The 2012 National Magazine Awards Foundation has released the list of finalists for the annual Best Cover Award, handed out at the presitgious event June 7, honouring artistic and editorial excellence in the Canadian Magazine community.

There are 10 nominees for the Best Cover Award.

Please vote for both the cover you WANT TO WIN the gold.  And vote for the cover that most likely WILL WIN the gold.

Scroll down and Check out the 10 Finalist covers below:


Now, here are some observations…

The Grid:

Lass Turnbull predicted that The Grid “was going to make some noise,” and they most certainly have.  I posted some very favorable reviews of The Grid, regarding their covers, so it comes as no surprise that they have snagged two nominations for Best Cover.  See Links Below:

Under Turnbull’s stewardship, his magazines have won before, both at Report on Business in 2005 and at Shift in 1998. And with two covers in the mix, The Grid has a 20% chance of success! 

Canadian Business:

I’m a huge fan of Canadian Business… they have been turning out excellent covers. I blog about them as inspirational object lessons frequently.  See links below:

The nominated cover sold 6.4% below their average for the year. CB’s PMB numbers are impressive, with 11.8 readers per copy and an audience of over 1 million.

The two subsequent issues, July 18th and August 15th, sold considerably more copies to eager readers.  The July 18th cover sold 122% more than the nominee, and the August 15th cover sold 64% better.  These covers are fantastic examples of what make magazines special: they look like fun, timely, provocative, informative, interesting, useful and entertaining reading experiences.

And let’s not forget the CB Specials. The annual 2011 Summer Investor issue sold 275% more copies than the nominee.  The annual 2011 Winners & Losers issue is selling brilliantly as well (while not final yet), at 164% better than the nominee.  Tell me readers and advertisers are not thrilled!  As for the brand…these covers would make any brand manager beem with pride.

Vancouver Magazine:

As the former Circulation Director of two city magazines (Toronto and Dallas), city magazine covers are amongst my favourites. And Vancouver Magazine consistently turns out first-rate covers that are some of the very best in the city and regional genre.

The nominated October 2011 cover was the worst selling cover of the 10 regular issues, selling 38% below the overall average.

Check out these two awesome covers from Vancouver Magazine.  The Jul/Aug 2011 (30 Top Shops) cover sold 151% more copies than the nominted cover.  The Jan/Feb 2011 (Wine Awards) cover sold 154% more copies than the nominated issue.  It is also the best-selling issue since Jul/Aug 2009…i.e. the best performance of the past 26 issues published! 

While it is true that these two issues enjoyed more time on the newsstand shelves, which helps boost sales, they also are extremely elegant, sophisticated, and finely honed artistically.

These covers work hard at the primary mandates:  1)  Reflecting positively on the brand,  2) getting subscription or even controlled circulation copies opened by eager readers, 3) selling copies at newsstand.  After all, the readers are what matter the most, and they usually vote with their wallets.  Advertisers also matter to magazines, and the eyeballs of readers had better be demographically relevant, and of sufficent reach, when ABC, CCAB statements, and PMB results are under review. These covers deliver on all counts! 

Toronto Life:

Toronto Life has a rich history of winning the Best Cover award. They took home Gold in 2008, 1997, 1996, and 1977.   They share the “most decorated” distinction in this category with Report on Business magazine.

The nominated October 2011 cover sold below the average for all 2011 covers, i.e. 7th best of the 12 published.

  • The April 2011 (Eat) issue sold 59% more copies
  • The January 2011 (Cheap) issue sold 46% more copies
  • The September 2011 (Exodus) sold  10% more copies

Are these not worthy of Gold?  They are classic service journalisim covers in the proud tradition of City magazines, as invisoned by the great Clay Felker of New York magazine, the father of city magazines.

Report on Business:

The iconic Canadian brand has won the Best Cover Award four times, tied with Toronto Life, for most Gold awards in this prestigious category.  They won in 2009, 2005, 2002, and 1988.   Impressive. 

As a controlled circulaton magazine that is delivered with the Globe & Mail, the magazine can focus on simply reflecting proudly on their brand and making sure it is compelling enough to get newspaper readers to pick it up and read it.  Judging by their PMB numbers, this is not a problem.  2011 PMB shows a circulation of 265,000 copies for a total audience of over 1 million or 4 readers per copy. 


Personally, I’m betting on This.  This has won the Canadian Newsstand Awards four times in a row (from 2007 through 2010…talk about a dynasty) where 50% of the judges score is based on newsstand sales results and 50% of the judges score is on artistic merit.  

The small independent magazine, with a proud tradition of publishing many of Canada’s best writers, always punches well above its weight.  The cover is both fun and original…a great example of what makes magazine publishing relevent, exciting, creative.

According to the publisher, Lisa Whittington-Hill, the nominated cover was their 2nd best-selling issue of the six issues published in 2011. It sold 22% better than the average issue.  That’s a winner! 

Here are some other classics from their website:


The award-winning in-flight book won the Best Cover award in 1994, for Canada’s Top 150 Restaurants. 

Being unrestrained by the need to sell on cluttered newsstands, the magazine’s covers are free to dazzle and tantalize.  Bonus:  no ugly UPC codes to worry about either.  The key is to get those high-end travelers to open the magazine, and spend some quality time consuming the goodies inside.  You have to love captive audiences.  PMB stats sure look good.  Circulation of 138,000 copies yields an audience of 986,000 at 7.1 readers per copy.  Impressive.  Looks like the covers are working!


Winner of the Silver in the Best Cover category last year, this year’s nominee is pink and cute, not terrifying and disturbing….so it probably won’t win.  But you never know.  “Art with Logo” ( a term coined by the great Paul Jones) is often a recipie for success!


While the Walrus usually cleans up in almost every other category at the National Magazine Awards, they have yet to claim Gold in the Best Cover competition.  But don’t count them out this year.  John Macfarlane, Editor and Co-Publisher, owns bragging rights for winning this covetted category.  He was either Publisher or Editor on 5 winners of the Gold in the Best Cover category.  By my count, Macfarlane holds the record for most wins in Canadian Magazine publishing history, so don’t bet against him or his team!  The Walrus has 34 nominations this year…the most of any magazine.

The nominated cover (Food) was the 4th best seller of the 10 issues published in 2011.

The cover that sold best in 2011 for the Walrus, was the Summer Reading issue, which sold 54% more copies than the nominee.  It’s excellent to see that first-rate fiction still sells magazines!  Great for Canadian writers, great for the Walrus brand, and “food for thought” for other Canadian editors and publishers.  The Jan/Feb and March 2011 covers both sold 36% better than the nominee. 

See blog post from 2011 by clicking this link:

And here is a post from 2010:

- Scott Bullock
About Me
Scott Bullock

Scott Bullock is the the creator of Bullock has worked as circulation director for both consumer and B2B magazines including Toronto Life and FASHION. If you have a great cover to share, please send all submissions to 

Note to readers: some of Bullock's posts may refer to his clients.
Most Recent Blog Comment
Kelly says:
Any news on how it performed on newsstands?...
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