Why Don't White People Want To Read About Michelle Obama?

Michelle Obama and her mother Marian Robinson are going to appear on the cover of Essence in May for that magazine’s Mother’s Day edition. But does Michelle have the same sales power as Barack?

Michelle Obama has graced the cover of a number of recent “general interest” magazines — including Vogue, Us Weekly, Newsweek, The New Yorker New York — solo, in addition to appearing with her husband and, in the case of O, with Oprah Winfrey. And, according to Advertising Age, they aren’t flying off the shelves. For instance:

New York magazine’s March 23 issue, with a cover story about “The Power of Michelle Obama” for example, looks like it produced “average” sales, New York said April 3, although the numbers remain subject to change.

Furthermore, they say:

People‘s March 9 issue with the first lady solo on the cover sold about 1.4 million copies on newsstands, right in line with the March 5, 2008, issue. The first three issues of the year averaged 1.3 million on newsstands.
The Feb. 9 issue of Us Weekly, featuring Ms. Obama and her daughters, seems to have sold about 800,000 copies, which the title called about average. The first five issues of this year, from Jan. 5 through Feb. 2, averaged newsstand sales of 863,250.
Then there are a few covers with relatively weak sales. Newsweek‘s Dec. 1 cover story on “The Meaning of Michelle,” using a black-and-white photo, only sold 90,000 copies on newsstands, 15% below its average for the second half of last year. More‘s October issue featuring a cover story on “Michelle Obama at 44” sold just 154,000 copies on newsstands, 23% below the second-half average.

The only “general interest” title that is trending higher than average is the aforementioned O cover.

On the other hand, magazines that target African-Americans (which are, apparently, not “general interest” like O or Vogue) seem to do great putting a strong, beautiful, incredibly visible African-American First Lady on the cover.

Ms. Obama proved newsstand gold for Ebony last fall. The September 2008 issue, with a cover story on “The Real Michelle Obama,” sold a hefty 261,000 copies on newsstands, 26% better than the six month average, according to its report to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
And the January issue of Essence, which split its print run between a cover featuring the president and a cover showing the first lady, earned newsstand sales of 458,000, the magazine told the audit bureau. The January 2008 cover, by comparison, sold 250,922 copies on newsstands.

Covers of “general interest” magazines that feature both of the Obamas tend to do either slightly or robustly better than average at newsstands. So why is it that a ladymag like Vogue doesn’t sell as many copies to its readers if it features the First Lady, who is considered a style icon (particularly in comparison to Laura Bush) as if it features yet another 18-year-old, hyper-thin white chick? Or is that just a really obvious question?

Michelle and Mom in Essence [Politico]
Cover Girl Michelle Obama Doesn’t Always Deliver [Advertising Age]

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin