Things at Rolling Stone magazine have not been on the up and up for a few years now. This is mostly due to the same reasons plaguing other magazines like newsstand/print circulation and advertising decline. But for Rolling Stone there were other added factors that took its toll on the legendary music magazine like the multiple lawsuits it faced over a debunked campus rape story which the publication paid out millions in settlements for. This along with the usual headaches magazine publishers face lead to Wenner Media selling off publications like Us Weekly and Men’s Health in an effort to raise cash. Wenner also sold off a 49% stake in Rolling Stone leaving founder Jann Wenner with the remaining 51% control stake. But Mr. Wenner has since sold off that remaining stake to Jay Penske, the low key media mogul who runs Penske Media Corp. For Jann Wenner and his son Gus who now serves as editorial director and President and COO of Wenner Media respectively under Penske, they are now employees of Mr. Penske and that may not be such a bad thing according to a report from Joe Pompeo. Jay Penske has already been laying his hands on Rolling Stone and plans to invest in the publication wich will include a makeover and a new monthly frequency which will be unveiled sometime in June.
Penske is also looking to beef up the magazine’s editorial staff with brand name individuals. Penske is also setting up new offices for the magazine because the current Rolling Stone offices are said to be stuck in time. But big changes also includes changes in staff size. According to the report Penske eliminated 20 jobs at Wenner Media due them being redundant. The big changes at Rolling Stone comes on the heels of a recent $200 million cash injection for Penske Media from a Saudi based organization which now holds a stake in the company. CEO Jay Penske clearly has immediate plans for the money which may include more acquisitions. For now though, the focus is on Rolling Stone and making the brand more current.
For the March 8 issue, Rolling Stone put Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman on the cover, signaling both a synchronicity with the zeitgeist and a noticeable departure from the aging rockers that tended to be Jann’s favorite cover stars. “It was like, holy shit, there’s someone on the cover from this year, and even from something going on this month,” the media executive who knows Penske (and who also knows Jann) told me. Indeed, word inside the newsroom is that Jann wasn’t hot on Black Panther as a cover choice, but the editors were pushing for it, and Penske loved the idea, too.
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