Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone February 1 2012 cover.jpg
Cover of the issue dated February 1, 2012, featuring CeeLo Green, Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, and Blake Shelton
EditorJason Fine
CategoriesPopular culture
PublisherPenske Media Corporation
Total circulation
(December 2018)
FounderJann Wenner

Rolling Stone is an American monthly magazine that focuses on popular culture. It was founded in San Francisco, California, in 1967 by Jann Wenner, who is still the magazine's publisher, and the music critic Ralph J. Gleason. It was first known for its musical coverage of rock music and for political reporting by Hunter S. Thompson. In the 1990s, the magazine broadened and shifted its focus to a younger readership interested in youth-oriented television shows, film actors, and popular music.[2] It has returned to its traditional mix of content, including music, entertainment, and politics.

The first magazine was released in 1967 and featured John Lennon on the cover. It is known for provocative photography and its cover photos, featuring musicians, politicians, athletes, and actors. In addition to its print version in the United States, it publishes content through and numerous international editions.

Penske Media Corporation is the current owner of Rolling Stone, purchasing 51 percent of the magazine in 2017 and the remaining 49 percent in 2019.


1967 to 1979: Founding and early history

Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and Ralph Gleason.[3] To get it off the ground, Wenner borrowed $7,500 from his own family and from the parents of his soon-to-be wife, Jane Schindelheim.[4] The first issue was released on November 9, 1967 and featured John Lennon on the cover.[5] It was in newspaper format with a lead article on the Monterey Pop Festival.[6] The cover price was 25¢ (equivalent to $1.92 in 2016).

In the first issue,[7] Wenner explained that the title of the magazine referred to the 1950 blues song "Rollin' Stone", recorded by Muddy Waters, and Bob Dylan's hit single "Like a Rolling Stone":

You're probably wondering what we're trying to do. It's hard to say: sort of a magazine and sort of a newspaper. The name of it is Rolling Stone which comes from an old saying, "A rolling stone gathers no moss."

Muddy Waters used the name for a song he wrote. The Rolling Stones took their name from Muddy's song. "Like a Rolling Stone" was the title of Bob Dylan's first rock and roll record. We have begun a new publication reflecting what we see are the changes in rock and roll and the changes related to rock and roll."—Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone, November 9, 1967, p. 2[8]

Some authors have attributed the name solely to Dylan's hit single: "At [Ralph] Gleason's suggestion, Wenner named his magazine after a Bob Dylan song."[9] Rolling Stone initially identified with and reported the hippie counterculture of the era. However, it distanced itself from the underground newspapers of the time, such as Berkeley Barb, embracing more traditional journalistic standards and avoiding the radical politics of the underground press. In the very first edition, Wenner wrote that Rolling Stone "is not just about the music, but about the things and attitudes that music embraces".[10]

In the 1970s, Rolling Stone began to make a mark with its political coverage, with the likes of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson writing for the magazine's political section. Thompson first published his most famous work Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas within the pages of Rolling Stone, where he remained a contributing editor until his death in 2005.[11] In the 1970s, the magazine also helped launch the careers of many prominent authors, including Cameron Crowe, Lester Bangs, Joe Klein, Joe Eszterhas, Ben Fong-Torres, Patti Smith and P. J. O'Rourke. It was at this point that the magazine ran some of its most famous stories, including that of the Patty Hearst abduction odyssey. One interviewer, speaking for many his peers, said that he bought his first copy of the magazine upon initial arrival on his college campus, describing it as a "rite of passage".[2]

In 1977, the magazine moved its headquarters from San Francisco to New York City. Editor Jann Wenner said San Francisco had become "a cultural backwater".[12]

1980 to 1999: Change to entertainment magazine

Rolling Stone shifted to more of an entertainment magazine in the 1980s. It still had music as the main topic but began to increase its coverage of celebrities, films, and pop culture. It also began releasing its annual "Hot Issue."[13]

Rolling Stone was initially known for its musical coverage and for Thompson's political reporting. In the 1990s, the magazine changed its format to appeal to a younger readership interested in youth-oriented television shows, film actors, and popular music. This led to criticism that the magazine was emphasizing style over substance.[2] In recent years, the magazine has resumed its traditional mix of content, including in-depth political stories. It has also expanded content to include coverage of financial and banking issues. As a result, the magazine has seen its circulation increase and its reporters invited as experts to network television programs of note.[14]

2000 to 2015: Expansion of readership

Rolling Stone cover from 2004.

After years of declining readership, the magazine experienced a major resurgence of interest and relevance with the work of two young journalists in the late 2000s, Michael Hastings and Matt Taibbi.[citation needed]

In 2005, Dana Leslie Fields, former publisher of Rolling Stone, who had worked at the magazine for 17 years, was an inaugural inductee into the Magazine Hall of Fame.[15]

In 2009, Taibbi unleashed an acclaimed series of scathing reports on the financial meltdown of the time. He famously described Goldman Sachs as "a great vampire squid".[16]

Bigger headlines came at the end of June 2010. Rolling Stone caused a controversy in the White House by publishing in the July issue an article by journalist Michael Hastings entitled, "The Runaway General",[17] quoting criticism by General Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan commander, about Vice President Joe Biden and other Administration members of the White House. McChrystal resigned from his position shortly after his statements went public.[18][19][20][21]

In 2010, Taibbi documented illegal and fraudulent actions by banks in the foreclosure courts, after traveling to Jacksonville, Florida and sitting in on hearings in the courtroom. His article, Invasion of the Home Snatchers also documented attempts by the judge to intimidate a homeowner fighting foreclosure and the attorney Taibbi accompanied into the court.[22][23]

In January 2012, the magazine ran exclusive excerpts from Hastings' book just prior to publication.[24] The book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan, provided a much more expansive look at McChrystal and the culture of senior American military and how they become embroiled in such wars. The book reached Amazon's bestseller list in the first 48 hours of release, and it received generally favorable reviews. Salon's Glenn Greenwald described it as "superb," "brave" and "eye-opening".[25]

In 2012, Taibbi, through his coverage of the Libor scandal,[26] emerged as an expert on that topic, which led to media appearances outside Rolling Stone.[27][28]

On November 9, 2012, the magazine published its first Spanish-language section on Latino music and culture, in the issue dated November 22.[29][30]

2016 to present: New ownership

In September 2016, Advertising Age reported that Wenner is in the process of selling a 49% stake of the magazine to a company from Singapore called BandLab. The new investor had no direct involvement in the editorial content of the magazine.[31]

In September 2017, Wenner Media announced that the remaining 51% of Rolling Stone magazine is up for sale.[32] In December 2017, Penske Media acquired the remaining stake from Wenner Media.[33] On January 31, 2019, Penske acquired BandLab's 49% stake in Rolling Stone, gaining full ownership of the magazine.[34]

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