For us it's more about how it's built and driven than what kind of truck it is
Have you ever really looked at a large newsstand? Hundreds of magazine covers with thousands of colors, photos, and words (or blurbs as the industry calls 'em) all screaming, "Buy me! Buy me!"
It's all too easy for a mag to get lost in the pile. You know, the "can't see the forest for the trees" effect-and it's a cutthroat forest. Magazines fight to be seen and fight for newsstand space. A little industry insight: Magazines must consistently sell over 30 percent of the copies stocked on the newsstand or risk getting pulled permanently by the store chain. It may not sound like much but it's a difficult proposition.
Giant magazine publishers sometimes use focus groups, reader surveys, and sales trends trying to figure out how to sell more magazines scientifically. Unfortunately, selling magazines is more art and experience than science. (In school curriculums there's biology, geology, palientology, sociology, and many other "ologies" but you won't find coverology.)
When it comes to picking a cover truck each month at 4-Wheel & Off-Road we have a different method: Just hang out on the trails of America and photograph the coolest-built, best-performing 4x4s driving through the most awesome, extreme terrain we can find. In order for that to happen we have a few guidelines when looking for a cover truck. These help ensure that when you see a new copy of 4WOR on the newsstand, you'll be as impressed with the rig as we were upon seeing it for the first time. That, and the down-and-dirty-do-it-yourself stories included inside, will hopefully make you want to buy us instead of those other screaming magazines.
If you want your truck to be considered as a possible 4WOR cover rig, here's what we're looking for....
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They say rules are meant to be broken so these aren't rules. They're more like guidelines. And, yes, we sometimes break them too. Remember, a great cover shot/truck is a feeling, chosen by using a combination of art and experience rather than some staid, set-in-stone, scientific dictum-or guideline.
* Clean, creative fabrication: We look for trucks that put function over form. 4x4s should be built to withstand the abuses of backcountry travel or off-road competition. There are a million different ways to accomplish this and a few that don't. (Running 44s on your 10-bolt front axle with lift blocks? Sorry, not our market.) We love to see what you guys come up with using hands-on, garage ingenuity.
* Brightly Colored: We look for trucks that, well, can be seen. The 4W staff all love desert tan, olive drab, and camouflage paint schemes but they make the 4x4 blend in with its environment (duh!)-including newsstands-too much. Occasionally a certain color (say, desert tan) can be photographed so that it contrasts off a background color (say, a dark blue sky) in a way that is bright enough to catch your attention on a newsstand. See? We do break our own guidelines.
* Fun, not freaky: Have you ever been at a dinner party laughing and enjoying the wit of your friends' observations only to have the discussion go awkwardly quiet when someone takes it a bit too far down the wrong road? Was Uncle Eugene's surgery comment on his tumor removal way too much 4-1-1? Well, we are looking for trucks that are unique, fun, well-thought out, enjoyable, useable, and unusual. Not ones that will have people laughing behind our backs. No posers.
* Action speaks louder: If your 4x4's most extreme wheeling action is parking on Astroturf, then our cover is not for your truck. We want you to get silly. (Notice we did not say "get stupid." We aren't filming Jackass 3 here.) At a cover shoot we won't force you to drive your truck in any way you're not comfortable with. But chances are we'll need a cover photo showing a combination of silly throttle action, silly wheels-up action, silly mud-spitting action, or silly sand-sliding action. Your truck might come out dirty, muddy, scratched, dented, or broken. This is four-wheeling. We're not shooting show cars here.
* Be Someplace We're at: Until we can do photography through the Internet or be beamed to your hometown, your truck has to be within range of our 70-200mm lenses. Most weekends throughout the year the staff travels to events and trail rides across the nation. Yep, while many of you are watching the RainBird do its shuffle and spray, we're doing what we love: canvassing the countryside for the coolest 4x4s to mash mud or grind boulders into gravel. (Unfortunately, magazine budgets can't afford plane trips for us to see each and every truck individually.) So get off your duff and out to the trails or the off-road park in your neck of the woods. Be sure to bring that banshee of a truck you've been hiding. It might just be the next 4WOR cover star.