From Vanity Fair
By Daniel Bukszpan
June 5, 2015

On June 1, the online edition of Vanity Fair posted a preview of the cover of its July 2015 print edition. It was a photo of the athlete formerly known as Bruce Jenner, with the caption “Call me Caitlyn.”

Jenner had already come out as a transgender woman in an interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC’s “20/20,” but the Vanity Fair cover seemed to make it official, if the overwhelming response it got on the Internet is any indication. The entertainment website The Wrap published a company-wide memo from Vanity Fair publisher Condé Nast that laid out all the details.

“In the last 24 hours, our colleagues at Vanity Fair broke a number of internal records with their Caitlyn Jenner July cover story,” it said. “With 13.1 million organic video views, we had our best video day ever. And, VanityFair.com generated its highest-ever single-day traffic with more than 9 million unique visitors. The story was trending on Twitter within the first 10 minutes of being live and on Facebook within the first 2 hours – and continues on Day 2 to be number 1 on Facebook(fb) and number 3 on Twitter(twtr).”

From Vanity Fair

People can be forgiven for being skeptical about whether this online frenzy will translate into actual sales of the magazine. After all, it was less than a year ago that The New York Times reported that magazine sales — in particular, celebrity magazine sales — were in a state of sharp decline, and the numbers they cited for the first half of 2014 were grim.

“Newsstand sales of People, InStyle and US Weekly dropped by nearly 15 percent in that time, compared with the same period in 2013,” the newspaper reported. “In Touch Weekly’s newsstand sales declined by 23.5 percent, Star Magazine by 21.8 percent and Life & Style Weekly by 21.7 percent. People StyleWatch suffered a 32.8 percent decline. Even highbrow celebrity titles were challenged; Vanity Fair had an 11.8 percent decline.”

The print edition of July’s Vanity Fair doesn’t hit newsstands until Tuesday, June 9, so until then, any speculation about the effect of the Internet response on sales is a purely academic exercise. But if the past is any indication, an eye-catching cover can sell a lot of magazines, and sometimes the cover itself is remembered long after the article and the rest of the issue are forgotten.

Fortune takes a look at some of the most unforgettable magazine covers in publishing history and how much they sold. Most appeared on the American Society of Magazine Editors’ October 2005 list, “ASME’s Top 40 Magazine Covers of the Last 40 Years;” those that weren’t were either published after 2005 or simply seemed too important to leave off. Unless otherwise noted, all sales figures were provided by the Alliance for Audited Media, a nonprofit organization that verifies circulation information for online and print publications. (People and Time are owned by Time Inc., which owns Fortune.)

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