To start a mass market magazine, "All you need is a line of credit and you are in business." To stay in operation, mass market magazine relied 90% on over the counter sales. Hence the magazine cover must stand out on the newsstands to attract the average readers. It was understood, "Stories themselves are constructed from many sources" and "the stories are based on fact not fiction." One publisher observed, "It takes a great psychologist to be a cover line writer. The simplicity has to touch a great mass."
The success or failure of fan magazines also depended on the personal budget of the consumer. When 'Movie Mirror' magazine experienced a drop in sales in 1977, editor Joan Goldstein pointed out, ". . . It's the entire economy that's responsible for the slump. What it comes down to is that the magazines now (in 1977) cost 75 cents, and if a woman is standing in a supermarket trying to decide between a dozen eggs and a movie magazine, what is she going to do? No matter what's on the cover, she's going to have to buy the eggs."
The 3 most popular fan magazines in the 1960s were 'Photoplay' (circulation 1.4 million; founded in 1911); 'Modern Screen' (circulation 1.1 million; founded in 1930) and 'Motion Picture' (circulation 750,000; founded also in 1911). At the start of the 1960s, all fan magazines put Jackie Kennedy Onassis on the cover. Richard Heller, editor of 'Modern Screen' stated in 1963, "She sells magazines because the public wants to read about her. She presents an enormously glamorous and exciting image to people all over the world. Until she came along, America's queens were the ones manufactured in Hollywood. Now the country has manufactured a 'queen' of its own."
The publisher of 'Movie TV Secrets' was matter-of-fact, "If you take Jackie off your cover and you put someone else on, sales go down. If you put David McCallum on the cover, there might be a 20% drop in sales." In 1977, the editor of 'Movie World' also conceded, "I would never devote a cover to Robert Redford or Robert De Niro. It wouldn't sell magazines." At the time, "With television an audience identifies with a continuous character and it's not a one-shot deal like it is with going to the movies."
Of putting Jackie on the cover, it was argued, "Jacqueline is not American. If anyone saw her on the street, they wouldn't say there's Jacqueline, they'd say there's Jackie. She has pushed Liz Taylor, the phenomenon before her, off magazine covers. Liz was a bad girl. Jackie is always positive. We never have a negative Jackie line on the cover. She is the First Lady. I mean the former First Lady."
By 1967, Helen Weller, the editor of 'Modern Screen' magazine, told the Los Angeles Times, "Finding a movie star to put on our cover every month is a hard sweat. After Liz, there's nobody. Almost nobody sells magazines today (back in 1967)." Nancy Anderson of 'Photoplay' remarked, "There's a shortage of stars in Hollywood, so we now include stars of every description – baseball players, politicians and astronauts. There is a glamor to the presidency. I'm sure if we'd had television and fan magazines when (Abraham) Lincoln and his boys were in the White House or Theodore Roosevelt and his family, they'd have sold like hot cakes."
Pat Campbell of 'Movie Mirror' made known, "It's almost as bad inside the magazine. You get so desperate for someone to put on your 82 pages each month that you could scream. The last few seasons even television hasn't developed exciting new people. The 'star' of almost every new television show has already failed in 3 other series. The movie studios, of course, haven't built a star in years. I don't think talent co-ordinators at the studios know talent when they fall over it. The readers used to pick up stars. They went to the movies and found Lana Turner, Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson. Now we've got a lot of road show pictures that never get into the small towns and are too expensive for the young marrieds to see anyway. 'Mary Poppins' didn’t play as a road show. It saturated the country and it made Julie Andrews a star. We won't get a reaction to 'Camelot' for over a year. Who knows if Franco Nero is somebody we could use. We'll never find out."
Helen claimed, "Everyone's complaining about those Jackie Kennedy covers except Jackie. The Kennedys have enough power to stop the covers. But they have someone they want to elect in 1972 and – unlike actors today (*) – they're smart enough to know the value of a star." (*) Pat Campbell expressed, "Stefanie Powers' press agent kept her totally away from writers. So her series was canceled – and who in the world knows who she is?"
Richard Heller theorized, "Fan magazines are women's magazines and they have much the same appeal as women's magazines, which also are featuring stories about Jackie. These the public wants. She appeals to our readers. If she did not, we would not feature stories about her. Magazines, television, comedians, record companies, radio, hair stylists, clothes designers and countless other business are capitalizing on the American people's fascination by Jackie and the Kennedy family. In a way, I find it somewhat amusing that the fan magazine should be singled out for their use of the first family." According to 'Photoplay' publisher in 1966, "Jackie Kennedy indisputably falls into the category of the star. We run Mrs Kennedy frequently, and Mrs Kennedy sells."