Was This Planned? Time Magazine Shares Memes Of Bad Cover Image

Yesterday Time Magazine released a screenshot of its newest cover. The cover instantly started trending around the internet because the majority of people find it hilarious/just plain bad. Now, Time Magazine has actually joined in the fun and is sharing the hilarious memes created from that cover themselves. 

Earlier today I wrote a post about this entire cover story/fiasco. Hundreds of other news agencies around the world have already commented on this surprising cover choice but many Fstoppers readers seem to actually like it. Some of our readers have painted me as a bully for even bringing up the cover. Other readers have commented that they believe the entire thing was a setup; a genius attempt at a viral marketing campaign. These people are suggesting that Time Magazine purposefully published a terrible cover to get more, free media coverage (like this very post) about the new issue. This theory seemed pretty far fetched to me but the subject of the cover, Palmer Luckey, has joined in the fun of mocking the cover himself by changing his profile picture on his Facebook page

Time Magazine has now taken things a step further by posting the most hilarious memes on their own website. Obviously they don't mention anything negative about the image/cover itself, but they at least seem to have a good sense of humor about it. 

So the question now becomes, did Time Magazine purposefully publish a bad picture to get the internet excited about this story/issue? I still don't think so. It's too risky. How could they have predicted this would have happened? It also lowers their perceived value in many ways. If I were in charge of Time I might publicly admit that it WAS a marketing ploy at this point, even if it wasn't, to gain some respect back, but I don't see that happening. So then why are they posting about the jokes now? Easy pageviews? Making the best of a bad situation? Or is everything going exactly according to their master plan? 

What do you think? Could they have possibly published a bad picture to entice the internet into making memes and in turn getting me to write this very post? I can't jump on that conspiracy theory bandwagon just yet but one thing cannot be debated; This cover image has given Time Magazine a new audience, and in turn will make the magazine a lot of money. 

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Liam Doran's picture

slam dunk home run pure genius...

Lee Morris's picture

So you actually believe the image was bad on purpose?

Liam Doran's picture

Who knows...not me. I was really just going for a little tongue in cheek there...but it is SOOOO bad it is a bit hard to believe. Plus I went to HS with Times Photo Director so for her sake I want it to be done on purpose

Sean Berry's picture

The idea of creating something bad on purpose is ridiculous.. I don't know any artist that would purposely do something bad.

Lee Morris's picture

Sean Berry's picture


Liam Doran's picture

One word...Sharknado

Lee Morris's picture

That's actually a really good example

Sean Berry's picture

But sharknado was never held to a certain precedent. Time has always been held to a very high standard.. it doesn't make sense for them to just be like.. "eh.. screw it!"

Lee Morris's picture

That's my feeling as well

Mbutu Namubu's picture


Miguel Gomez's picture

If It was indeed a plan, it was pure genius. For some reason, it reminds me of something Gary Vaynerchuck would recommend to do.

Yang Shan Ting's picture

If you think of it, TIME magazine have been around for over 90 years, I'm sure they would know what a GOOD or BAD photo/cover is. I would say it's done on purpose but is it ridiculous to do it? I'd say NO. In this day and age everything is online, even magazines are going electronic (apps) because physical copies are just slowly dying. So the best/fastest way to remind people of your existence is by going viral. These are just my opinion. :D

Souri Sengdara's picture

No debate ... the picture is shocking. But it's very effective and people start talking about it (even we do here!) the Internet goes mad creates memes and photoshopped images.

When this was to a certain extend expected it's genius ... we will never find out!
It's actually so good that FStoppers posts a second article about this bad photo.

Sean Berry's picture

Yeah, it has people talking about it. However, it in no way makes me want to go out and buy it.

Sean Berry's picture

Yes I have. haha

Andrew Link's picture

Completely disagree with that last statement about this making them lots of money. I've worked in publishing and magazines for the past 10 years. Newsstand sales are absolutely nothing in terms of profit. Any uptick in newsstand sales from this stunt would never make enough money to justify possibly tanking the brands image of quality. People are seeing the cover online. That's enough for them, most won't run out and buy it. It would take selling extra tens of thousands of issues for it to be noticeable.

Ralph Hightower's picture

Why not? It's free publicity!

Dana Goldstein's picture

I don't believe they intended it, I think it's just another symptom of the dying of the genre. But their reaction reminds me of something many years ago in the Paleolithic era before the internet (and Lee you're probably too young to remember this so...): In the months before Charles & Diana got married, there was WILD speculation as to what her dress would look like, as in, armed guards outside the workshop of the designers, David & Elizabeth Emanuel. One day one of the British tabs published a story that in fact there were three complete designs and three complete dresses being made, so that even if the shop were broken into not once but twice, there would still be a dress that the world had not seen (and in 1981, trust me, we were ALL watching). After the wedding, the Emanuels revealed that the story was a complete fabrication (no pun intended) but had been so helpful to them in security as everyone thought it made perfect sense, that it would have been stupid of them to deny it. So if Time is letting people think, yeah we MEANT to do that (which I doubt), it's only to save face and milk it for whatever they can get out of it -- as surely no one actually reads Time anymore.

Benjamin Thomson's picture

I honestly think there wasnt that much thought in it. They probably had ten mins with the guy and this was thr best shot. Its not photoshopped like your last post claims, hes jumping in front of an image of a beach at facebook hq.

I mostly just find it mundane and inoffensive.

Javier Larroulet's picture

Ugly as it may be, the shot somehow drives me back to the 1990's. The first massive attemps at VR were under way, and this shot seems to be mimicking the kind of images you could see back then in magazines when they ran stories about VR

Perhaps it is a tongue-in-cheek nod at those times, or perhaps it's just a crappy shot :)

jon gibb's picture

If they wanted someone to take a bad picture of Palmer Luckey they shoulda just overpaid Terry #flannel #unclecreepy #thesuprisingjoyofvitaminDdeficiency

Damon Waters's picture

We're all saying it's "bad." But what is it really? It's "meme-able." I think they made it "meme-able" on purpose. And, being "meme-able," it's not really bad. It's good. It's a new kind of good.

michael buehrle's picture

i think that this was their cover (still might be) but after the beating on how bad it is they are trying to play it off as a hoax. i don't follow Time so i have no idea if it made it to print. it's horrible and they know it. someone is gonna sweep some floors for this one. i think that any high school graphics kid could have come up with a better one than that and achieved the desired result. and it will not sell more copies being so bad.