‘What’s so funny?’ about Rolling Stone

It’s the “new golden age of comedy” and Rolling Stone wants everyone to know about it.  Its September 18 issue features several spreads of comedians, funny one-liners, and a profile of David Letterman.  Rolling Stone should stick to what they know and what has them a great publication in the past, long-form narratives.

The September 18 issue featured two great long-from narratives.  One was about Chucky Taylor, the first U.S. citizen to be formally charged with committing torture abroad, and the other, the obituary of Jerry Wexler.  They are both great pieces that keep you captivated.  The pieces on “the new golden age of comedy” are just fluff.  Eleven pages were dedicated to short quotes from different comedians that I guess were supposed to be hilarious.  Now readers of Rolling Stone can read a quote from Don Rickles about how he and his wife don’t understand the Internet.

Jann Wenner and music critic Ralph J. Gleason founded Rolling Stone in 1967 to more than just a publication of lame one-liners.  Jann Wenner is still the editor and publisher of the publication.  The magazine knew a golden era in the ‘70s thanks to its political coverage and in-depth journalism.  In the ‘90s, to compete with younger male magazines, Rolling Stone changed its mix of content to focus more on sex, television, movies, and pop music.  Gradually Rolling Stone has gone back to the content that made it famous, including more coverage of politics. 

Rolling Stone has been criticized for selling out because of their change in content in the 90’s.  They lost some of their longtime readers and their magazine circulation dropped.  Since they’ve changed back to their traditional format circulation has increased to about 1.4 million.

When you look at the issue you can’t help but feel that maybe all of this focus on comedy is just an advertising ploy.  NBC has taken out huge advertising space in the issue; such as the gatefold in the center dedicated to their action show “Heroes.”  The front and back cover are also gatefolds that feature replicas of old concert posters hawking NBC programming like “The Office,” “30 Rock,” and their new show “Kath and Kim.”  The fronts of these covers are graced with NBC stars such as Tina Fey, David Letterman, Tracy Morgan, and Amy Poehler. 

Although Rolling Stone claims to be a magazine with a readership of young adults, they statistically fall into an older age range; 63% of their readers are between 25 and 54.  Perhaps Wenner and the other editors thought that inserting young comedians here and there like Dane Cook and Russell Brand, the Britney Spears-obsessed host of the 2008 MTV Music Awards, was going to make younger readers take notice.  Perhaps Rolling Stone should just stick to what they know best. 

– Cindia Gonzalez


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