This is a common criticism of American news magazines: the covers for the American versions are for fluff, while the very same issue sports a hard-hitting, news-y cover for the overseas markets.
But the choice between these covers begs the question: Does Time really think Americans are more interested in coverage of their own stress than another historic rebellion, albeit on the other side of the world?
The truth is slightly more complicated and simultaneously a lot scarier.
The problem is that the American audience for Time is 50/50 male/female, but for the European version it’s 66/34 male/female; and the Asian Time is 80/20. In other words, Time doesn’t think Americans are dumber than Europeans, it thinks American women are dumber than European men.
Which is still not completely accurate. The key demo– the one advertisers are looking at after gender and age– is income and employment. European personal income is $90k and Asian personal income is $190k, but they don’t even list the American audience’s personal income– they merely state the household income of $73k, I’ll let you work out why. And the vast majority (75% and 80%) of European and Asian readers are Professional/Managerial, vs. 30% in the U.S. Time’s covers go where the money tells them to go.
That would be enough for an interesting post, but there is one more thing that needs to be considered: the actual articles (e.g. about anxiety) within the magazine are, for the most part the same, shallow, hopelessly imprecise nonsense that Americans are subjected to/want. In other words, applying the language of stereotypes, the masculine readership of Europe/Asia is the intellectual equivalent of American Kansas housewives.
Which was fun to write, but not completely accurate either. The covers aren’t targeted towards subscribers– they are for the newsstands/bookstores, i.e. impulse buys. That market– which in the U.S. tends to be younger, female, and have more leisure time (read: not working) are drawn to magazines about Anxiety.
Which brings me to the real point of the covers: they aren’t a comment on the readership, they are an object to be commented on.