Breast Feeding & the First Gay President: How Time & Newsweek Are Riding the Social Media Train

The news magazines controversy wars are going at full steam.  Time got out of the gate first with its May 21 cover, featuring a rather defiant and somewhat uncomfortable looking Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding her three-year-old son, Aram.  In the photo, Aram is standing on a chair and feeding on her exposed left breast.  Not your everyday magazine cover.  But it wasn’t meant to be.  The image had more impact than the article, which accompanied the photo; which is exactly what Time intended.  The web erupted with praise and criticism; and the social media stir accomplished the decision, makers at Time, were hoping for. Celebrities jumped in; Alyssa Milano and model Joanna Krupa began to Tweet about it and the social media frenzy was off to the races.   It drove more readers to the site, where they had to pay to read the full articles.  The traditional media had a heyday with the cover which, in turn, caused an even bigger sensation on the various social media fronts

An article in the Los Angeles Times explained that Time’s editors ran the controversial photo and article to mark the 20th anniversary of Dr. Bill Sears’ book on the topic.  According to the article, the book helped “power the movement for moms to establish deeper, and more prolonged, physical bonds with their children.”  That is all true, but the purpose of the cover photo was to cause a sensation and drive sales

Not to be outdone Newsweek’s cover May 14th cover declares Obama “the first gay president,” with a story by writ

er Andrew Sullivan.  With Tina Brown at the helm, Newsweek has recently a number of controversial covers, but here the envelope is being pushed with a vengeance.   The cover, which shows President Obama with a rainbow halo above his head, comes days after Obama’s statement that he is personally in favor of gay marriage.

The article draws parallels between the isolation felt by many in the homosexual community and Obama’s struggle to fully discover and assert his racial identity.  But again, the image and the tag were less about the article and more about the marketing.

As with the Time breastfeeding cover, it is the Newsweek cover photo and tagline that will be remembered and that will cause a stir.  Here, the major news magazines, which have taken tremendous blows during the past few years, primarily because of the internet, are now utilizing the power of social media to sell magazines.

It’s an interesting irony and in a way marks a bit of a 180 turn.  The traditional media using the tremendous power of social media to market it wares.  This is indicative of how public relations, social media and the traditional media have in a sense all melded into one.  You can no longer separate one from the other and, if as a marketer you fail to see that – you lose.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

Martinson, Jane. “Are you mom enough?’ … Time magazine Photograph: AP”. Photo. The Guardian. 14 May 2012. 14 May 2012. <>
Harrigan, Matt. “Newsweek cover calls Barack Obama ‘the first gay president’.” Photo. 14 May 2012. 14 May 2012. <>
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