Rolling Stone: “Voice of Change”

Magazine publisher defends future of print media

The publisher of Rolling Stone magazine vehemently denied that print media was becoming obsolete before a crowd of eager students yesterday afternoon.

“Let’s talk about the idea that print is dead,” the publisher, William Schenk, said. “I think it’s ridiculous.”

While many periodicals have gone through a difficult period, Schenk said that magazines would ultimately survive because of their tactile nature.

“When you put a beautiful glossy advertisement in a magazine, it creates an emotional connection that no other media can,” he said.

“These kinds of ads...are beautiful; they’re glossy, they’re sensual in ways. I believe magazines will continue to be strong because of their ability to do that,” he added.

Schenk told the audience that magazines should focus on producing content that readers will love.

“My business manifesto is you have to be irresistible and you have to be loved,” Schenk said. “There’s tons of crap out there if you haven’t noticed. The magazines that people don’t care about are dying, and that’s a good thing I think.”

Schenk defined a “great magazine” as one that engages different senses, praising Vanity Fair, The Economist, and New York Magazine for their ability to do so.

“When I looked at a recent Vanity Fair cover, I could almost feel the fabric that was draped over the woman’s shoulders,” he said.

Schenk also addressed people’s perception of Rolling Stone.

“Some people think that we’re a music magazine, but we’re not,” he said. “We’re the voice of change, and that’s what we have to do.”

But Schenk stressed the importance of marketing magazines to the consumer.

“You need to think like a marketer,” he said. “We all need to sell. And I don’t mean it in the cynical sense, but its about creating something people want.”

“Rolling Stone is not my magazine,” he added. “It’s the reader’s magazine.”

Windsor G. Hanger ‘10 asked, “Is there any way to successfully monetize the online presence of a magazine?”

Schenk answered that a magazine has to “function like a magazine” and that the online world is more of a “wild west.”

When one member of the audience questioned why Rolling Stone covers have become less interesting and edgy in the last five years, Schenk replied, “That’s a very incisive comment. We’ve fallen into a rut.”

“If you saw the Gossip Girl cover, that was a complete result of my pushing,” he said. “If it sells well, I’ll get to do more of them.”