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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Covering your bases

There's something unsettling about Vanity Fair's Africa Issue, "guest edited" by Bono. My copy came with a big fat supplement about diamonds for a start. I don't believe in guest editing much. It's a trade-off in which both parties end up feeling short-changed. The magazine gets a bit more star power to boost its sales. The star gets to pretend that they are manipulating the media for a higher purpose. (Bono apparently wanted to call it "Fair Vanity" for one issue. See what he almost did there?)
Clearly there are a lot of very wealthy people who are putting their money to good use in Africa. People like Bill and Melinda Gates and Oprah Winfrey, who are on the cover of my copy. That's a good thing. Mind you it also reflects just what unprecedented sums of money have been made in entertainment and media over the last twenty years.
Inevitably, they've done the multiple covers thing. Most of them feature wealthy, powerful Americans and were shot far away from the trouble and strife of Africa. I'd love to know how the print run broke down between the different individuals on the covers. How many of the Clooney/Jay Z copies found their way to the bookstall at Grand Central Station. How many of the Warren Buffet/Bill Gates copies went to subscribers in Des Moines.
Still at least it's for a good cause, which is more than can be said for Empire, which feels the need to mark whatever the latest Star Wars anniversary is with 30 different Star Wars covers. It's difficult to know which is sadder - the human effort involved in organising this exercise in merchandising or the fact that some people will feel they have to buy them all.