Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What is Rolling Stone?

I stopped getting Rolling Stone in late 2000. It was after Jann Wenner and company went public with how they needed to really change with the times and basically become Maxim. Which they clearly never intended to do. But the big problem was that articles in RS, no matter the content, were going to be a lot shorter. Gone were the long in-depth pieces that made the Hunter S. Thompson's of the world household names. Wenner's thinking was that nobody had the attention spans for that sort of thing. Those longer articles were what I actually wanted from RS, and I checked out when they announced the change.

And I'm still out, basically because anything I want from them I can get on their website, even though anything new is fast food as opposed to the epic sweeps of the earlier work. Yes, I know Mac G suggests we should all give Wenner and Company another chance. But the above picture shows us that Rolling Stone wants to remain all things to all people. Or it could be they really wanted to run a cover with a picture of Old Man Henley in a shirt Radar O'Reilly would wear in MASH. The interesting thing about their latest cover story is that it's written by Charles M. Young, who wrote the LAST cover story for the Eagles for Rolling Stone, in 1979.

So who's Rolling Stone trying to attract? Yes, their website is still a source for new music (from established acts). They're often late to the party in terms of finding new artists, something they were quite good at during their first 10 years. But other magazines and of course the internet beats RS big time in that area. They've had the same film critic for over 20 years. Peter Travers is good in this area, but we usually learn about these films before Travers has a chance to put his own spin on them.

Making the cover of Rolling Stone used to be a sign that you officially arrived. This was, and to an extent still is, the case if you weren't a musician. Television from SNL to Letterman to Seinfeld to The Sopranos and last week's The Hills are perfect examples. The Eagles put out their "new" album back in November, 2007. And RS is just now running a cover story on their "bitter feud/big comeback." If Rolling Stone wanted to be at the start of that thing, they should have gotten the story after the album sold it's first million copies. Back in NOVEMBER. Shit, 60 Minutes beat them to this. In NOVEMBER! I would have been fine with the late-to-the-party effort, had Young's piece been even more detailed and in-depth, like he was in 1979.

Last year, RS did a good piece on the "bitter feud" regarding Pink Floyd. An article that would have been even better had the "smaller stories" mantra not been in place. What Wenner and Rob Sheffield and others don't recognize is that people will still spend incredible amounts of time reading and getting into things they're interested in. Vanity Fair still does that. Hell, Maxim even does this on occasion, and they continue to offer many more suggestive pictures than the RS cover picture of "The Hills" babes. Blender does a better job of detailing the catalogs of bands like The Stones and Bowie and the Eagles and Dylan, going back and revisiting their entire bodies of work. It's better than what itunes does with their "Essentials" on artists. When Blender does this feature, which they do each month, they'll detail every album, grading which ones are crucial and which ones to avoid at all costs.

Rolling Stone's original mantra was famously "All The News That Fits". Now they just offer bits of news that make you go elsewhere to get a whole lot more.

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