It’s the riches of our digital life that are being offered up to us, this time through the MagNet data system.

Of course, most of us are getting great feedback from our readers from our online cover surveys. In some cases the readers help sway a decision: the close-up or the distance shot for the cover image? The quirky human interest article or the solid investigative piece as the lead? The starburst or the banner?

It’s a wonderful world of reader participation and interactivity. But no doubt about it, the best way to assess the impact of a cover is still through its newsstand sales.

And the best time to assess that impact is, of course, as soon as possible. Things change fast in this business, and an early warning is a good thing. That’s why I was so pleased when Gil Brechtel asked me if I wanted to take a look at MagNet’s Cover Analyzer and its companion POS flow and comment on what I see. We’re all pretty familiar with MagNet’s data stream—it’s allowed us, in recent years, to see exactly how many copies we sell in every single retail outlet, with data that is updated daily in the Web portal. That’s information that hadn’t been readily available on a national basis for many years, to the frustration of publishers everywhere. The Cover Analyzer and POS piece allow us to see how well a cover does its job—to excite interest, and sales, for the publication.

In keeping with the season, I thought I’d start with a look at the fall fashion publications. They always stir up some excitement at this time of year, and I’d heard that these all-important September issues showed increases in ad pages, per Min Boxscores (and Hallelujah for that): W up 31 percent, Vogue up 24 percent and InStyle up 16 percent.

InStyle’s September issue is 600 pages of fall fashion—a heady promise! And according to MagNet’s POS it has sold over 44,000 copies in the first two weeks on sale in the retailers tracked for reporting purposes. This is less than its 2009 anniversary issue, which sold 48,000 copies in those same retailers at that same point—but as we circulators know, that was long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Vogue’s fall issue tops InStyle with over 700 pages of fall fashion. On the newsstand bipad alone, MagNet’s POS tracking shows Vogue selling 32,472 copies at in the first two weeks. Again, slightly disappointing when compared with 2009’s September issue, a “mere” 500 plus pages, which sold 34,132 copies in the same retailers in the same period of time. This is still promising, compared to the previous couple of issues, which tracked at about two thirds that level in those retailers at the same day of on-sale.

W follows a similar trend, up from the softer summer issues but down from the golden days of yesteryear, and I guess that’s the story of our lives right now. These fall fashion issues are benefiting from the ad page bonanza as well as the seasonal up-tick in their category, but any rally is welcomed.

And isn’t this Cover Analyzer a nifty tool for tracking the ups and downs of our industry, its categories, and its covers?