Skipper Embarks on New Course at Spin: The Rolling Stone Veteran and Former US Publisher Has Bob Guccione Jr. Talking about a Record Year

By Hovey, Susan | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, June 1990 | Go to article overview

Skipper Embarks on New Course at Spin: The Rolling Stone Veteran and Former US Publisher Has Bob Guccione Jr. Talking about a Record Year


Hovey, Susan, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


The Rolling Stone veteran and former US publisher has Bob Guccione Jr. talking about a record year

NEW YORK City-Standing on the fire escape outside Spin magazine's 11th floor offices on West 18th Street, John Skipper and Bob Guccione Jr. are taking in the view" - a bleak enclave shut off from the streets and sky by the grimy red brick walls of the surrounding buildings. This, they decide, is the world of "combat publishing."

Although they use the term in jest, a sense of irony hangs in the damp air. As editor and publisher Guccione sees it, things have never looked better at Spin, which, after a decidedly rocky start, finally appears to be headed out of the trenches. The magazine's fifth anniversary issue April) netted record ad revenue of $500,000 and also marked a rate base increase of 28.5 percent, to 225,000; the May and june issues each went over $300,000 for the first time, leading Guccione to believe the title might show a slight profit this year.

Perhaps most important, though, as Guccione notes, he now has Skipper on board as president and publishing director. John's the guy who piloted Rolling Stone's circulation growth," says Guccione. He's the guy who turned US around. I now have much more faith that we're really going to grow," he adds.

Skipper's late-February arrival at Spin followed his dismissal from Straight Arrow Publishers, inc., where he served for eight years at Rolling Stone before moving over to US as general manager in july 1987. (He became publisher in October 1989.) As the 34-year-old Skipper tells it, he was fired over a disagreement about how to run the magazine."

Others, such as Guccione, suspect a different reason. "He was seen as too much of a star by the top people at Straight Arrow, " Guccione suggests. "But I think they made a big mistake. Their loss is truly our gain."

In 18 months as circulation director of Rolling Stone, during the mid 1980s, Skipper took the title's circulation from 775,000 to the one million mark. At US, he directed a circulation increase from just over one million to 1.3 million, while ad pages increased from 618 in 1987 to 762 in 1989. During that same period, ad revenue rose from $13.3 million to $22.4 million.

Moving as fast as possible

"I felt that in the two-and-a-half years I was there, we were on the proper course," says Skipper. "We were moving ahead as fast as we could. Obviously, Jann [Wenner, chairman of Straight Arrow, believed it could rise faster."

The problem, he adds, stems from unfair growth comparisons made between US and Rolling Stone, a title that caught fire and shot up like no one should expect a magazine to do. " (Rolling Stone currently has a circulation of 1.2 million.)

"US is not going to catch fire," Skipper continues. "I do believe there is a place for US. It's a good, growing little magazine. But it doesn't have the same cachet as a Rolling Stone, a Vanity Fair or a Spy. It's about people, movies and television. …

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