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Newsweek’s Michele Bachmann Cover Unlikely to Give Mag What It Needs Most

Tina Brown has generated a lot of buzz with her covers and redesign, but it does not appear to be helping the magazine’s circulation overall

Ever the provocateur, Newsweek editor-in-chief Tina Brown has raised eyebrows once again with her latest magazine cover, this one featuring an unflattering shot of presidential aspirant Michele Bachmann. 

Is it an example of liberal bias? Is it sexist? Or, as Fox News asked, does Newsweek hate Michele Bachmann?

In response to the last question, there is no doubt Newsweek will love her if the controversy boosts sales of the magazine — but nothing suggests that will happen.

Newsweek has been in trouble for some time, and that is no secret — it sold for $1 just a year ago.

Its subscriber rate base has declined dramatically over the past few years, as have advertising revenues.

Ever since taking over Newsweek when it joined forces with the Daily Beast, Tina Brown has done a fantastic job of drawing attention to the lagging publication with sensational covers and a redesign. For an example, consider the response her cover with a computer-aged Princess Diana provoked.

Brown has also released controversial covers that only further the belief that there is a liberal bias amongst the traditional media. Whether it is the cover with Mitt Romney depicted as a character from the Broadway smash "Book of Mormon" or this one with Bachmann, Brown, a former editor of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, seems to welcome attention of both the positive and negative variety.

Also Read: Mormons May Rock, But 'Newsweek's' Dancing Romney Cover Kick Up Controversy

Yet while these covers have gotten journalists and talking heads to pay attention to the enfeebled publication, has it had any effect on the bottom line? It would appear not.

While sales of single issues are up, overall circulation still slipped in the first half of 2011, dropping to around 1.5 million. Compare that to Time magazine, which saw total circulation increase and newsstand sales jump by 16 percent.

On the digital side, Newsweek.com has been absorbed by the Daily Beast.

This is not to say Brown's efforts have been for naught. Circulation may yet increase, or, more significantly, Newsweek may find an alternate revenue stream.

As a Newsweek spokesperson pointed out, Brown came on as editor in mid-March, and those numbers include figures from January and Februrary. He added that newstand sales are up 30 precent and ad pages are up 88 percent if one compares the magazine's 2011 numbers pre and post-Brown.

However, those are improvements from generational lows for the magazine. Pending a sudden surge, it appears Tina Brown's stewardship has sparked a lot of talk but little economic benefit. The storied news magazine is as endangered as ever. Too bad.