"We are considering a major change in the format of Rolling Stone from its current look to one more like the enclosed test issue," wrote Jann Wenner, founder of Rolling Stone in a note to select subscribers.
Enclosed in a manila envelope from Rolling Stone, which Media Mob has acquired, is Mr. Wenner’s letter with a tighter, smaller, glossier version of the current issue of Rolling Stone featuring Barack Obama on the cover. (A larger version is currently on newsstands). The test issue is the same size as your Vanity Fair, your Gourmet, your Lucky. It’s glossy and perfect-bound (goodbye, staples!), and the spine has all sorts of type on it making it perfect for your bookshelf: the dates, the issue number (RS 1056/1057), and a peek of what’s inside: BARACK OBAMA/BONNAROO/ AMY WINEHOUSE / RUSH / GREENLAND. The logo-type in the test issue is a brighter shade of red and smaller.
Inside the magazine, it appears the content is all there, just jammed into tighter spaces with sleeker-looking photos. The paper seems a bit glossier. The binding makes the magazine feel more substantial; a heavier object at 146 pages rather than the broader 120-page classic look. That’s one of the few positive things we can say about it. Otherwise, it just feels so … generic. It doesn’t retain any of the flavor of the old Rolling Stone, and the way that a magazine feels in your hands is half its game. Also, the scented ads for Diesel and Armani Acqua di Gio kinda smell more and an eight-page, heavy-stock ad for Chevy feels enormous in the new binding.
So as a service, here are some of the questions that Rolling Stone has asked its readers to take, and here are our answers. Tomorrow, Media Mob will send out our trusty intern Sam Jewler to round up some people on the street and do the same.
Answer the following: Completely Disagree, Somewhat Disagree, Somewhat Agree, Completely Agree
The magazine fulfills my needs: Somewhat Disagree
The photos looked better than those in the regular issue of Rolling Stone: Slightly Agree
The magazine felt too mainstream: Completely Agree
I read sections of the magazine I had never read before: Completely Disagree
The articles appeared to be shorter than those in the regular issue of Rolling Stone: Slightly Disagree
The magazine is more environmentally friendly than the regular issue of Rolling Stone: Slightly Agree
The magazine felt less "cool" than the regular issue of Rolling Stone: Slightly Agree
The magazine felt formal: Completely Agree
The magazine felt new and fresh: Slightly Disagree
The quality of writing is better than the regular issue of Rolling Stone: Completely Disagree
The new format was easier to read than the regular issue of Rolling Stone: Slightly Disagree
I prefer the regular format of Rolling Stone: Completely Agree
The magazine felt important: Slightly Disagree
Thinking about this test issue of Rolling Stone, please tell us how much you liked or did not like each of the following criteria. When answering, please think about your reading experience rather than whether or not you were interested in the actual articles. Liked a Lot / Liked Somewhat / Didn’t Like Much / Didn’t Like at All
Overall reading experience: Didn’t Like Much
Article layout/flow: Liked Somewhat
Page size: Didn’t Like Much
Layout of photos: Liked Somewhat
Look of photos: Liked Somewhat
The way the magazine feels in my hands: Didn’t Like Much
Now think about this test issue of Rolling Stone in comparison to a regular issue of Rolling Stone (larger size). For each criteria listed below, please tell us whether you liked the test issue or the regular issue more, or whether you liked them about the same.
Liked Test Issue More // Liked Test/Regular Issue about the Same // Liked Regular Issue
MoreOverall reading experience: Liked Regular Issue More
Article layout/flow: Liked Test/Regular Issue about the Same
Page size: Liked Regular Issue More
Layout of photos: Liked Regular Issue More
Look of photos: Liked Test Issue More
The way the magazine feels in my hands: Liked Regular Issue More
Thinking about your overall reading experience, how different would you say reading the test issue of Rolling Stone was in comparison to reading a regular issue of Rolling Stone?