He has recently sold Us Weekly and Men’s Journal. too.
It’s difficult to see where Rolling Stone goes from here. It’s basically Playboy. The name has iconic value, but it’s a legacy brand all the same, and it has been very much tied to one man’s tastes. Does the buyer hold to the same formula to retain the existing audience, or risk complete irrelevance by trying to move in a new direction?
The question is, what is the value of the Rolling Stone name these days? For at least a decade, Rolling Stone is the last place you’d watch to keep up on the rock scene. About the only credibility it had left was a proudly liberal political coverage and 1) the UVA case cost it a lot of journalistic cred and 2) the are so many blogs and online sites that do that anyway this year.
Magazines in general are dead. For some reason, a friend kept getting free offers for random magazines and sending them to my house. I’ve gotten hundreds of Rolling Stone, Outside, Men’s Fitness, ESPN, etc sent to my house over the years, and that’s in addition to several IEEE publications I keep getting, and all have plenty of content I’m at least nominally interested in.
I read maybe 0.1% of them. (EDIT: And I’m the only one who read any of them at all. Nobody else did, not my family members, not visitors, not anybody.)
It’s sad, because I have a lot of good memories of reading magazines when I was younger. I had a subscription to SPIN when I was in high school. Smithsonian when I was in the Army in my 20s. But phones took their place. I still read books (not as often though, unfortunately), but magazines were always for light reading outside of books, like while eating or using the bathroom or in waiting rooms or waiting for my wife to get ready to go out. But the phone has taken over that use case entirely.
So I highly doubt Rolling Stone is going to “right the ship” no matter who buys them. They’re circling the drain like the rest of the periodicals market, and good on the owner for getting out while the brand name still has some value.
I got a free subscription to RS and read every issue, then re-upped my subscription. I really like it, but 1) I was a magazine journalism major so I heart magazines 2) I grew up reading RS, Spin and Circus 3) I enjoy all the topics they cover - music, politics and technology. So, I still read every issue.
But, it’d be sad to see someone lose their shirt for a magazine in this day and age, so I’m sure he’s making the right decision. It’s also sad that this is their 50th anniversary and have been featuring articles about the history of RS each issue.
By chance, my copy of a book of Rolling Stone interviews (late 60s to early 2010s) was my bedtime reading last night. Good interviews (a few by Wenner himself), mainly musicians and film people (plus a few politicians).
The magazine is definitely on the wane. I still thank them for introducing me to the Negro Problem, via one of those short album reviews, in 2000.
Ah I see. And the first prospect mentioned in the article, too!
Well, well - any bets he’d keep the Wenners on? Safe to say it probably wouldn’t veer back to the edgier first five or six years of its history.
There would definitely be nothing anti-Trump, which would be a very weird thing for that mag.
I think their best bet is to go web-only without a paywall. Not many 20th Century media giants have figured out how to succeed in the internet age, and the last time I bought a physical copy of this magazine a few years back, they were still trumpeting Paul McCartney and Jackson Browne on their cover (I think President Obama was the cover subject).