The FTC has issued an enforcement policy on deceptively formatted advertisements to attempt and combat “unfair or deceptive acts or practices affecting commerce.” The 16-page policy comes down to one simple rule; advertisements should be clear that they are advertisements.

In his book, Trust Me I’m Lying, author Ryan Holiday goes in depth on how the shifts in our economy and how news is consumed have pushed publishers to focus on traffic by any means, and are driven by the markers, thus compounding the issue further.

“We take it as self-evident that journalists shouldn’t be paid off by people they write about or have financial investments (like owning stock they’re reporting on) in their field. The conflict would shape the coverage and corrupt their writing.” – Ryan Holiday

It is an era he confirms is the death of subscription and the birth of media manipulation.

So to come full circle to the question that was posed as the title of this article; should models pay to be featured on a magazine cover? Let us explore this question from a few different angles.

First, would anyone pay to be on a magazine cover if the magazine itself was open and transparent that the cover was entirely for sale?

Locally there exists a 100% commercial publication geared towards real estate professionals and their listings. Everyone in the publication, from the cover to every article to everyone ad was bought and paid for. The publisher and the magazine are very clear, open and transparent about it and it indicates as such inside the magazine.

So when someone posted on social media how “surprised and honored” they were to be featured on the cover when it came out – it begged the question, at what point were you surprised?

Where you surprised when you wrote the check for the feature? Where you surprised when the photographer the magazine sent, that you paid for, showed up to photograph you? At what point did this catch you off guard?

The result was a bit of online embarrassment for this subject who wanted her audience to believe she earned the editorial feature, when in fact all she did was pay for an advertising feature.

Consider your favorite fitness magazines. How would you feel if your favorite covers you’ve seen, or the influencers or icons you follow bought and paid for every single one of their media features and nothing about it was earned or merited other than sending in a check? It would change your perception wouldn’t it?

Let us now take it even further. Suppose this became the norm for every magazine that featured models. If everyone was aware that the covers were up for sale and that anyone with the right amount of money could buy their ticket onto it, at what point what you stop paying attention to covers altogether?

That is perhaps the final and most important question in this overbearing topic. Although it is not permissible in the states due to the FTC regulations, it does happen overseas.

Thus will the short-term solution of publishers being able to profit by selling the covers turn into a long-term issue when they lose subscriptions as a result?

That we will find out much sooner than later.

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto