Is the cover curse a mere regression to the mean?

If BusinessWeek, Forbes or Fortune call about doing a glowing cover story on you and your company, well, suggest they feature your competition. Via Stephen Baker (who recalls writing a 1998 cover story for BW on Nokia that later rode its industry’s roller coaster up and down and up after that), here’s a study (PDF) that suggests companies that have either a negative or positive cover story later “regress towards the mean.” (Stephen is completing a book on math, so using terms like “regress towards the mean” comes natural for him.)

The “cover curse” is not limited to business magazines. Back in January of 2002, I pointed to this cover story of Sports Illustrated that explored its cover curse. As the history of that magazine’s cover-curse involves at least one person who died two-days after being featured on the cover, I’m sure her loved-ones would not be comforted by the notion that her death was just a small equation in a much-bigger regression model. However, I’m sure some actuary could crunch the numbers to predict what ones chances are for stepping in front of a bus right after appearing on the cover of a specific magazine.

Speaking of cover curses, around our house, we’re hoping there’s no truth to the Madden curse, as our favorite quarterback is gracing the cover of Madden NFL 2008.