TIME magazine’s bold move with its cover story this week has industry experts calling it everything from a cheap shot to desperate.
This week’s cover features an attractive 26-year-old mother, clad in trendy skinny jeans with sleekly muscled bare arms, breastfeeding her almost 4-year-old son under the headline, “Are You Mom Enough?”
The story is about Dr. Bill Sears, a parenting educator who advocates extreme child-rearing techniques.
Industry insiders have said that they think this is TIME;s attempt to take a page from Newsweek/Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown’s handbook of shocking your way into the news cycle.
“There is no question the morning shows and The View are going to be all over this, and Time can claim to be talked about (if not read),” Fox News quoted Glynnis MacNicol, a journalist who covers media, as saying.
Whether this move sells magazines is trickier than just getting folks to talk about it.
“In the case of Newsweek, Tina Brown’s most controversial covers, Michele Bachmann and Princess Diana, haven’t resulted in long-term upticks in subscriptions or ad sales,” MacNicol said.
“People tend to see the cover online or on television, read or listen to what people are saying about it, and go on with their day. The engagement rarely goes past the cover image to the inside pages let alone the subscription form. This sort of cover suggests Time is getting increasingly desperate to garner people’s attention,” MacNicol said.
Media analyst Brad Adgate of Horizon Media agrees and even added that some subscribers may go so far as to cancel their subscription due to the cover.
“The downside is subscribers cancelling because it is too provocative for a news magazine. Time and Newsweek are both trying to get noticed and remain relevant as consumers get news around the clock on a variety of sources,” Adgate said.
“I think like everything else risque you push the envelope as far as you can. You could eventually run the risk of having newsstands covering up the magazine like a Walmart or banning it if it goes too far,” he said.
Jessica Wakeman, a blogger who writes about women’s issues for TheFrisky.com, thinks the magazine simply didn’t have to go this far in order to raise questions about breastfeeding in America. Breastfeeding is already a divisive issue for mothers.
“They’re trying to sell magazines, but they could have picked a cover that wasn't trying so hard to be controversial and even sexy,” Wakeman said.
“It’s not an accident that the real-life mom used for the cover is young, blonde and attractive. It’s daring you to either be defensive or repulsed, or have some strong reaction of any kind,” she said.
It didn’t take long for Hollywood to weigh in, either. Actress Alyssa Milano, who had a baby last year, exclaimed on Twitter that the magazine was exploiting breastfeeding mothers."@Time no! You missed the mark! You’re supposed to be making it easier for breastfeeding moms. Your cover is exploitive and extreme," Milano tweeted.