'Like Fortune or Newsweek'; Readers Uneasy About Proposed Rolling Stone Redesign

Yesterday, we told you that Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner was considering a major redesign of his magazine. He sent out a test copy to subscribers and asked them to participate in a survey to tell him what they thought.

Media Mob hit the streets of Manhattan to do a survey of its own. Judging by the responses of eight people, Mr. Wenner’s proposed change might be akin to passing a kidney stone in the minds of Rolling Stone’s old-school fan base.

"You cannot go—you can’t—you cannot move away from this format," said David Peebler, a 46-year-old options strategist and trader at Park Ave and 22nd Street. "Do something else. Anything else. Do not make it into this."

"This is Rolling Stone," he continued, waving the old-format copy. "And this is every other magazine," pointing to the test issue, which he refused to even open.

The two versions of Rolling Stone he held in his hands had the same cover, which fittingly depicts a man that some accuse of forsaking his base for a swim in the mainstream: A flag-lapelled Barack Obama.

"The trademark is that it’s a big magazine," 23-year-old businessman Blake Elder said. "I just think it’s already got something that’s kind of a trademark, that sets it apart, and now it’s going to look like any other magazine. It’s not going to pop off the shelf like it did before."

But not everyone is offended. "Personally I don’t mind it," said Austin Wright, a 23-year-old investment banker, while riding the 4 train uptown last night. "There’s not really a difference in the reading."

Still, even he wondered if he’d be brave enough to pull out the new copy during his rush hour commute. "I’d feel less cool reading the new one," he said. "It just seems like it would be a Fortune or a Newsweek."

Some people prefer it, like Phil, a 49-year-old banker, whom they hope to recruit: "I’d say I like it [the small format] better," he said. "I never liked the old one; I thought the paper stock was kinda cheap. This is more magazine-like, easier to fit in your hand. More acceptable looking."

"I like this [small] one because of the texture," said Miguel Rodriguez, a 29-year-old in the IT consulting business.

Babu Hussein, a 54-year-old who works at Sebastian’s newsstand at Lexington Ave and 92nd St, said that the smaller one is easier to display and it’ll be easier to sell. "If you like this magazine, then any color, any size, you’ll buy this one," he said.

Even Mr. Peebler, the trader and old format loyalist, conceded, "I’m assuming the editorial’s still going to be up to speed and that it’s just going to be good Rolling Stone stuff—some issues better than others, but solid content by people who really care."

But that’s about all he could he concede. "But this [large format] is Rolling Stone. That’s it. I mean it just sticks out. That [small format] becomes just another magazine. I don’t want to flip through it. It’s People."

Would he actually read it less if it changed? He paused for a good 10 seconds and said, "You become like any other magazine if you make it look like any other magazine. … My feelings are strong because that’s the last thing you should do. Do other things, just don’t fuck with that. Just don’t fuck with that. ‘Cause you will fuck your soul."

'Like Fortune or Newsweek'; Readers Uneasy About Proposed Rolling Stone Redesign