“Change (in Rolling Stone) You Can Believe In”

October 20, 2008

“Like the man we are featuring on the cover for the third time in seven months — a record equaled only by John Lennon — we embrace the idea of change.” Thus starts Jann Wenner’s introduction to the newly redesigned and re-sized Rolling Stone magazine. Sporting a tightly close-up, and as far as I can tell un-retouched photo of Barack Obama (See Newsweek’s Sarah Palin’s Cover Photo here if you don’t get when I mean), Wenner the magazine founder, editor and publisher introduces the magazine that started in 1967 as a “tabloid-size newspaper.”

For those who are not familiar with the history of Rolling Stone, Mr. Wenner takes them through a trip down memory lane. From the 24-page newspaper black and white tabloid, to the 1973 four-color printing, to the 1981 “big step when we essentially became a hybrid of a newspaper and a magazine.” For the 21st Century Rolling Stone offers its readers (all 13 million of them according to Mr. Wenner) change that is “not change for the sake of change, but change as the kind of cultural renaissance that gave birth to Rolling Stone more than four decades ago.”

Wenner ends his intro writing, “Of course, what never changes is our DNA. A great magazine is a set of voices and values, artfully and urgently translated into great stories and great pictures. The soul and mission of Rolling Stone remain the same as a magazine coming from midtown Manhattan as they were when we were a rock & roll newspaper published from a warehouse-district loft in San Francisco…”

The success of Rolling Stone is totally embodied with that last paragraph from Wenner’s Editor’s Note. Not too many magazines can claim that they have been true to their DNA, soul and mission through the years. Even when the magazine deviated from its original mission and soul, ever so briefly, Jann Wenner was able to navigate the ship back to its course. A job well done. This issue is a keeper whether you paid $4.50 on the newsstands or a mere 33 cents by subscription. A great example of how change can be executed without messing up with the DNA and soul of your publication. Whoever coined the phrase “size does not matter” was absolutely right when in comes to the new standard size of Rolling Stone. The only thing that matters now is that the magazine feels, forget about feels, it actually has, more pages and more “good” stuff that I can only hope that I will have the time to read every other week. To quote Graydon Carter editor of Vanity Fair at last week’s TimeWarner Summit Politics 2008, “We carve out our ground and try to tell great stories and have great pictures, which is something you can’t get on the internet.” I know he was not talking about Rolling Stone, but about his magazine Vanity Fair, yet I feel what he said is even more applicable to Rolling Stone. Thank you Jann Wenner for the change in Rolling Stone that we can believe in.

Click here to read more about Rolling Stone and good journalism.


  1. Pretty sure he’s been retouched carefully, so as to appear unretouched. I Photoshop for a living and recently had to do a spate of presidential ad stills–he looked a bit rougher in the RAW images I saw.

  2. […] pundit of the magazine world has reviewed the new Rolling Stone and likes what he sees. Really. A […]

  3. I do wonder if the high story count will continue through subsequent editions, or whether that was done for issue No. 1 in the new format to make readers feel like they are getting “more.” I guess time will tell.

  4. You’ve got to be kidding. Rolling Stone has long been out of touch regarding MUSIC. It’s OLD and TIRED and has zero relevance to its supposed age demographic. Arthur is actually doing what Rolling Stone USED to do in the 70’s (when it was good). Mr. Magazine – talk about magazines that exist for passion, not just a job.

    This redesign and new size reeks of desperation and very little understanding about the future of print. Tiny magazines and over-sized magazines on interesting paper is what will attract readers – otherwise they will get their info online. TACTILE is the future, its what makes print unique.

    Rolling Stone has disappeared completely at the news stands in NY because NO ONE CAN SEE IT. You have to hunt through the racks, you pass it dozens of times before you see it. Their sales will go down.

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