First they honor Ciara as Woman of the year
Then they honor Chris Brown as Artist of the year
Now Billboard names Alicia Keys as having the Album of the year?
So how did Keys come out on top? The Billboard chart year strongly favored Keys. The chart year began the very week that As I Am hit the chart, with impressive first-week sales of 742,000 copies. That "start date" cut off the first five weeks of Noel's sales, a period in which it sold 379,000 copies. Groban was also hurt on the back end. In the four most recent weeks (including this week), which are not counted in the year-end tally, a seasonally-reinvigorated Noel has sold 509,000 copies, compared to just 21,000 copies for an out-of-gas As I Am. Noel's uncounted sales on either the front end or the back end are more than enough to offset As I Am's 144,000-copy lead during Billboard's official chart year. (If the chart year had started and ended one week later than it did, Groban would have beat Keys handily. His total would have been 3,341,000 copies, to her 2,892,000 copies.)
Billboard didn't deliberately favor Keys: The 2008 chart year adheres to the magazine's usual practice. Why, you may wonder, doesn't Billboard's year-end issue just conform to the calendar year? It's a matter of production logistics. The year-end issue is typically the magazine's biggest issue of the year (this year's edition runs 178 pages). The staff needs the extra time to assemble the issue and, not least of all, sell ads.
The magazine's 2008 chart year runs from Dec. 1, 2007 through Nov. 29, 2008. And in that period, As I Am sold more copies than Noel, which finished at #2 (not to mention Tha Carter III, which ranked #3 on Billboard's recap.