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« Paul Bingham on Alternative Airplay | Main | Hollywood Teeth: The Early Days »

October 14, 2009

Car Mag Hot Car Covers

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I see this almost all the time at news stands: General-interest car magazines with expensive, hot cars on their covers.

The current (November 2009) covers of those magazines are: Motor Trend -- Corvette; Road & Track -- Lamborghini; Car and Driver -- Corvette and Ford Shelby GT500; and Automobile -- the forthcoming $200-300K McLaren.

Conclusion: Magazine editors almost certainly do it because sales data indicate that issues featuring photos of high-performance automobiles on the cover make for higher news stand sales than issues whose covers feature lesser cars.

Follow-up question: Why do car magazine covers with those high-performance autos have such appeal when most readers of such magazines cannot in their wildest dreams afford to buy such cars?

I can't readily speak for myself on this crucial matter because I tend to subscribe to car mags rather than buying them at the news stand. Cover subjects aren't normally a factor for me. On the other hand, when I started buying (and later subscribing to) car magazines as a teenager, I couldn't afford to buy a new car of any kind. To a degree this parallels the question posed above regarding ends and means. But my motive for buying those magazines was that I was simply a car fan and wanted to stay current with the automotive scene. I still do, but with much less intensity.

My lack of intensity has reached the point where those fancy, expensive cars featured on covers barely interest me at all. What interest I have has to be with styling and design matters and not whether the car can accelerate from 0 to 60 in less than four seconds, can take a corner while maintaining a lateral force exceeding one gravity or costs more than $250,000.

That said, what other reasons are there for buying a car magazine at a news stand when its cover features a flashy car? One possible motivation is to be au courant regarding cars to maintain credibility with other guys once a bull session starts; same thing applies with regard to baseball, football and other sports. Another motivation is aspirational; some day fame and fortune could strike, so be prepared! One more might have to do with what might be called "realistic fantasizing" -- yearning for what one knows full well is unobtainable.

It can be easy to snicker, but all of the above reasons represent normal aspects of human psychology. I might have written something similar about women who buy magazines about movie stars or royalty. Or men purchasing issues of Playboy to ogle centerfold pictures of women they have no realistic chance of possessing.



posted by Donald at October 14, 2009


I tend to think the fantasy explanation is the best in this case. Travel magazines are the same way; covers have pictures of Bora Bora or Sydney, when in fact for most people travel means a rental at a nearby beach or a road trip to a National Park.

It seems to me your question is a narrowed variant of "Why do people have interests in things that are of no realistic practical value to them?" Is it emotional? Intellectual? Status within a subculture? Some form of self-image validation?

Posted by: dzot on October 14, 2009 9:46 PM

WTF? Why does Maxim feature women the average reader couldn't even approach? ;-)

Posted by: JewishAtheist on October 15, 2009 9:28 AM

This has always been true of magazines for men and boys. I noticed this years ago. There are far more yacht magazines sold than people who can realistically buy any yacht, let alone an expensive one. Airplane magazines sell well to people who will never buy an airplane (a lot are bought by boys). I saw a couple of magazines on Porsches recently in the local newsagent. These clearly sell, but most men who buy them will never own a Porsche.

There is something in human nature, maybe male nature in particular, that confuses the model or the image with reality. On a personal note, I have a few toy cars, and I suspect that owning a model Lotus, Bentley or Porsche gives me a certain vicarious pleasure.

Posted by: Julian on October 16, 2009 4:25 AM

What are these "magazines" of which you speak?

Posted by: anonymous coward on October 24, 2009 12:08 AM

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