There was a time when Rolling Stone was required reading for anyone who cared about music. It was a counterculture bible, a journal staffed by tastemakers and the source of some fantastic writing by geniuses (cf. Tom Wolfe) and weirdos (Hunter S. Thompson), not to mention some brilliant photographer (Annie Liebovitz immediately comes to mind.)
Things have not been going well for some time now. Like many magazines, Rolling Stone has struggled in the Internet age. Circulation shrank, ad rates fell and despite an early dive into the online world, the publication is still looking for its footing in the digital world.
I stopped reading the magazine years ago when RS started chasing readership by putting Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears on the cover. And the whiff old hippyness never went away. Another story on the Grateful Dead? Please. Stop living so much in past. The magazine’s influence shrunk along with its physical dimensions.
In 2016, a 49% stake was sold to BandLab Technologies, a company based out of Singapore. And now founder Jann Wenner has decided enough is enough. After fifty years of ownership, he’s the rest of his stake. From the New York Times:
But the headwinds buffeting the publishing industry, and some costly strategic missteps, have steadily taken a financial toll on Rolling Stone, and a botched story three years ago about an unproven gang rape at the University of Virginia badly bruised the magazine’s journalistic reputation.
And so, after a half-century reign that propelled him into the realm of the rock stars and celebrities who graced his covers, Mr. Wenner is putting his company’s controlling stake in Rolling Stone up for sale, relinquishing his hold on a publication he has led since its founding.
This doesn’t mean RS is going away, of course, but whoever buys it won’t have the same attachment to the product as Wenner. Then again, that might be a good thing.