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The PPA’s top 100 competition and why it’s something for the print industry to celebrate

Richard Ardley, Insight Director
By Richard Ardley  //  Tue 12th March 2013
To celebrate its centenary, the Periodical Publishers Association (PPA) has launched a competition to seek out the magazine cover of the century. 
You can vote for your favourite of the 10 shortlisted covers (Chosen by a panel of industry experts) here
 It’s quite possibly the first (and last) time we’ll see Darth Vader battling it out against Dennis the Menace, or a Dalek vying with Kate Moss for our attention. 

For me, the standout cover has to be Empire’s 2005 Darth Vader cover, which inflicted a dose of heavy breathing upon readers whom opened the magazine. The same, I hasten to add, doesn't happen when you open Vogue’s 2001 cover featuring Moss.

Joking aside, it’s actually really great to see the good old printed edition being celebrated. These days pretty much everything we read about print publishing is doom and gloom – yes we know about dwindling circulations, the fall out due to the digital revolution and so on, but this is a piece of news that gives the print industry a reason to pat itself on the back. Why? Because it shows that print is staying consistently fresh and isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

In the future we may continue to see the printed magazine dwindle in numbers - whilst digital increases – but nothing will ever replace the sense of satisfaction gained after sitting down to read a good old page-turning magazine. If anything, I predict that in the next 100 years print publishers will simply be able to create even more powerful messages, as they will be afforded the luxury of being able to cater for their increasingly niche markets. Powerful topical issues will continue to give rise to emotive images on covers – in much the same way that a 1987 cover from New Scientist, listed as one of the PPA’s top 100 covers of all time, carried a “looming menace” to depict Chernobyl’s raging fire and radioactive plum. Editors will still have the opportunity to go against the grain and produce groundbreaking imagery – in much the same way that the editor of The Beano did in 1999 when he faced strong internal opposition in choosing a bold, child-like depiction of Dennis.  However, his innovation delivered a sale of 202,528 copies, the highest of that entire year (and again, a place in the PPA’s top 100).

It will be interesting to watch how different types of innovation technology will impact the humble printed magazine. We are already seeing print publishers dabble with technology to add extra dimensions to their front pages. The 2008 edition of Esquire ran an electronic ink front cover, which featured moving words and images, to celebrate its 75th anniversary edition. Meanwhile augmented reality is breathing new life into our newsstands, with dozens of titles in the past 12 months having dabbled with its use to bring print to life. To give an example, Hello magazine last year brought former Take Thatter and X Factor judge Gary Barlow to life (you pointed your phone, pre-loaded with an AR app, at him and up he popped). 

I can only imagine the developments we will see in the next 100 years time, because technology will, no doubt, work well with print to create some clever, iconic and standout magazine covers.  And I am certain that in 2113, we will still be looking back on 100 years of printed glory. 

Richard Ardley, Insight Director, - blog
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