A peek behind Maxim’s $1-a-vote cover model contest

Maxim’s novel idea to have a contest to choose the cover model of its January/February issue garnered it a lot of publicity — and, it appears, close to $1.5 million.


Aspiring model Olivia Burns was thrilled to win a readers “vote” in the Maxim’s Finest contest last fall, which got her on the cover — and a $25,000 prize.

But it wasn’t quite a pure popularity contest.

Readers were allowed a single free vote daily. But beyond that, they were charged $1 per vote — with a $20 minimum — to cast their ballots. There was no check on how many times a fan could vote. Each dollar spent counted as a single vote.

At the outset, Maxim said it would kick 25 percent of all the revenue raised to a worthy charity — Homes for Wounded Warriors.

It eventually reported that it turned over $500,000 to the charity.

That would mean that the contest grossed $2 million, which suggests that nearly $1.5 million went to Maxim’s bottom line.

Sardar Biglari, the Iranian-born investor who bought Maxim four years ago through his Biglari Holdings, has struggled to turn a profit on the magazine — which is only a tiny part of his company of restaurant and insurance holdings.

Biglari could not be reached for comment. “We don’t give out interviews,” said a person answering the phone at the conglomerate’s San Antonio HQ.

The American Society of Magazine Editors CEO Sid Holt said, “The only editorial concern here is transparency. Is it clear to readers how the contest is conducted and how the cover is chosen? Sure, somebody could buy the vote, but that should be pretty clear to anyone who takes the time to participate.”

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