Rolling Stone changing its direction

Wednesday, May 1, 2002

— Holding true to the adage that a rolling stone gathers no moss, Jann Wenner is retooling Rolling Stone magazine to emphasize shorter, newsier stories on music and entertainment.

The change comes as Rolling Stone faces declining newsstand sales and the perception of an older readership while an upstart music magazine, Blender, has been hitting a nerve with younger readers.

Robert Love is stepping down as managing editor of Rolling Stone, Kent Brownridge, Wenner's top deputy, said in an interview Monday, confirming a report in The New York Times. No replacement for Love was immediately named.

Brownridge said Rolling Stone was attempting to respond to changes in the culture that require a more timely approach to providing news about music, movies and other forms of entertainment.

"Rolling Stone is a very different magazine than it was 10 years ago, and things are happening in the culture that dictate a faster take on what's going on," Brownridge said. "This is a phenomenon, among other things, of the Internet and 24-hour news channels."

Last year Wenner revamped Us magazine, a celebrity gossip and lifestyle magazine, taking it from a monthly to a weekly format. Brownridge said there were no plans to change Rolling Stone's biweekly frequency or its general look and feel.

Rolling Stone is still a heavyweight magazine, guaranteeing a circulation of 1.25 million to its advertisers. But newsstand sales � a major indicator of a magazine's health � tumbled 10 percent in the six-month period ending last December, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Wenner founded the magazine in 1967.

Blender was launched last May by Felix Dennis, the brash British publisher who took the U.S. men's magazine world by storm with the huge success of Maxim.

Blender's circulation has not yet been audited, but Lance Ford, general manager of the magazine, said it now guarantees circulation of 350,000 to its advertisers and sells 150,000 to 250,000 on the newsstand, more than the 160,000 newsstand sales that Rolling Stone reported to the circulation bureau.

Blender may still be much smaller than Rolling Stone and its other main music magazine competitor, Spin, which has a circulation of 541,500, but it's expanding quickly. It put out four issues last year, is currently bimonthly and will go to 10 issues per year beginning in August.

Like Maxim, Blender also goes after young audiences with short, flashy stories and vibrant graphics.