Rolling Stone's possible sell-off underscores an inhospitable media landscape

By afaqs! news bureau, New Delhi, September 19, 2017
After half a century of publishing eminence, the iconic magazine's owners want to sell.
Jann Wenner, left, and his son, Gus, in a portrait taken at Rolling Stone's headquarters last year

The 50th anniversary of anything is a cause for celebration. In the case of Rolling Stone magazine, however, it was news of a prospective sell-off that is occupying the owners' minds.

When 21-year-old Jann Wenner started his magazine in 1967, it gradually went on to define cool, cultivated literary icons by producing star-making covers. But in a publishing industry that has run into turbulence, Wenner has found the going tougher and tougher, especially in the last four years. He is putting up his company's (Wenner Media) controlling stake in Rolling Stone up for sale.

The sale plans were devised by Wenner's 27-year-old son, Gus, who has pared down the assets of Rolling Stone's parent company in response to financial pressures. The Wenners recently sold the company's other two magazines, Us Weekly and Men's Journal. And last year, they sold a 49 per cent stake in Rolling Stone to BandLab Technologies, a music technology company based in Singapore.

A counterculture bible, Rolling Stone's issues were adorned with pieces by names like Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe. It also started the career of the celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, who for many years delivered electrifying cover images, including an iconic photograph in 1981 of a naked John Lennon curled in a foetal position with Yoko Ono.

Music coverage in all of its forms - news, interviews, reviews - was the core of Rolling Stone, but its influence also stretched into pop culture, entertainment and politics.

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