06 April 2006

Numb and Number

"6 Weeks to 7 Figures," promises a Men'sHealth article. Seattle Metropolitan magazine heralds its inaugural issue with "65 BEST WAYS TO LOVE OUR CITY" on the cover. "10 MORE REASONS TO LOVE ORLANDO BLOOM," gushes CosmoGIRL! Why all these numbered lists? you may wonder. Because research shows that numbers sell magazines--women's magazines, historically, but, increasingly, men's magazines as well. "It all adds up to an arms race at the newsstand," says Katharine Q. Seelye in her playfully informative article "Lurid Numbers on Glossy Pages! (Magazines Exploit What Sells)," published in the February 10, 2006, New York Times. As Seelye explains, "Numbers jump out from the clutter of type on the newsstand. They draw the eye and quickly convey value and utility, helping monthlies in particular stay afloat in the rising tide of celebrity obsession."

Yes, we can't get enough of celebrities, it seems. US Weekly and People, the best-known star-crazed weeklies, feed us a steady stream of Britney, Gwyneth, and Paris sightings, with the occasional glimpse of George Clooney aboard his boat on Lago di Como. "Today, the biggest force everyone is dealing with is celebrity magazines," Kate White, editor of Cosmopolitan, the best-selling monthly in America, tells Seelye. "You're not competing with other people's numbers, you're competing with Brad and Angelina and babies."

For those of us who'd like to eighty-six the numbers mania, there's zero relief in sight.