American Mass-Market Magazines

By Alan Nourie; Barbara Nourie | Go to book overview

$23.95 in 1987. Over the space of twenty years, the cost of a single issue has gone from twenty-five cents to $1.95.

Along with expected changes in circulation rate and price, Rolling Stone has undergone a number of other transitions. In 1977, the magazine's offices were moved from San Francisco to New York City for reasons of efficiency and economics. Changes in staff personnel and--most important for its readers--a shift in content also took place.

When it began, Rolling Stone was almost exclusively a rock-and-roll magazine that also contained a marginal number of nonmusic features. Over the years, it has broadened its scope considerably. Recent topics featured in Rolling Stone have included politics, AIDS, national affairs, pop psychology, nuclear energy, teen suicide, presidential races, and so on. Articles on audio and video technology are a regular part of the magazine. As one would expect, music is still the raison d'être of Rolling Stone.

Many well-known writers and celebrities have contributed to the magazine. Richard N. Goodwin, William Greider, Ralph J. Gleason, and Charles Perry have done articles on national affairs or social issues. Jann Wenner has written on music-oriented topics. Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote, and Jane Fonda have also been contributors. The advertisements appeal primarily to a young audience-- men and women between the ages of eighteen and thirty. The ads that appear most frequently promote records, audio equipment, cars, motorcycles, cosmetics, cigarettes, and liquor Currently, the advertisements comprise 45 percent of an issue. Annual ad sales average more than $39 million.

From time to time, Rolling Stone has generated controversy. A particularly memorable incident took place in 1968 when the 23 November issue featured the nude photographs of John Lennon and Yoko Ono that were a part of their Two Virgins record album. Letters from riled readers and parents flooded the magazine's offices. Many cities and towns censored the issue. The postmaster in Englewood, New Jersey, refused to deliver copies. It even achieved the notoriety of being banned in Boston. 3

Rolling Stone appeals mainly to two audiences, one much larger than the other. The first and larger audience consists of teens and adults who are fans of rock music. Many of these readers, an estimated 5 million, are the forty to forty- five age group who have been readers of Rolling Stone since it first began. The second audience consists of those who are interested in the history and/or social psychology of American popular culture from the 1960s to the present. Although the magazine's focus and informal tone may not appeal to everyone, Rolling Stone is excellent for what it purports to be.


Notes
1.
Martin Arnold, "Rolling Stone Is Still Gathering Readers," New York Times, 22 October 1973, p. 32.

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