It’s the end of an era.
Rolling Stone, once considered the “counterculture” go-to publication covering entertainment and media, will be sold off in the near future. Jann Wenner, the magazine’s founder, is putting his company’s controlling stake up for sale, releasing his control of it for the first time since 1967.
Where did it all go wrong? There are multiple factors, not the least of which is the drastically different publishing landscape. Websites are taking over magazines by an immeasurable number, bringing in eyeballs and readers quicker and easier than their paper-only brethren.
Additionally, in 2014, Rolling Stone published an inaccurate story about a gang rape at the University of Virginia, which forever scarred the publication’s journalistic integrity.
For his part, 71-year-old Wenner and his son Gus, 27, the current president and chief operating officer of Wenner Media, blame the move on the current state of publishing: both print advertising and circulation are declining year-over-year.
“Publishing is a completely different industry than what it was,” said Gus. “There’s a level of ambition that we can’t achieve alone. So we are being proactive and want to get ahead of the curve.”
“I love my job, I enjoy it, I’ve enjoyed it for a long time,” said Jann to the New York Times. “[Letting go] is just the smart thing to do.”
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“Rolling Stone has played such a role in the history of our times, socially and politically and culturally,” he continued. “We want to retain that position.”
Both the Wenners want to stay on at the magazine, but say it’s up to the new owner(s).
No potential buyers have been named. The company’s other magazines, Us Weekly and Men’s Journal, were sold recently to American Media Inc., helmed by publisher David J. Pecker.
The elder Wenner says he hopes to find a buyer that understands Rolling Stone‘s mission and has “lots of money.” The sale is especially poignant as it’s taking place on the publication’s 50th anniversary — almost to the exact date.
Some of journalism’s finest voices have been published in Rolling Stone, including iconic writers Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe, and it has featured astounding photojournalism since its inception.
Aside from launching Annie Leibovitz’s career, the magazine’s photo covers have gone down in history as some of the most memorable ever published. Over the years, especially after its botched 2014 rape story, Rolling Stone‘s cachet has dwindled.
Jann hopes that the magazine can stay afloat, and even prosper, under the direction of younger eyes and minds, which is why he bequeathed the publication to his son in the first place.
“I think it’s time for young people to run it,” he said.
— With files from The Associated Press