I grew up reading Rolling Stone Magazine and devoured every issue. Always on the leading-edge, Rolling Stone set the bar for what was cool.
Over the years, Rolling Stone lost its way and shed most of its hipness. It was hard to watch the magazine cling to a depleted business model. Covers like the travesty above were the final nail.
Jann Wenner’s company was rescued from the brink by Penske Media. They reimagined the brand from the ground-up. Now, Rolling Stone is pushing the envelope again with creative, experiential events. They’re fast becoming a digital force while their print version is an afterthought.
Penske cracked open new revenue streams, expanded licensing deals and bought hundreds of content creators together. They’ve aligned with dozens of partners to digitize live events, including a groundbreaking gala in L.A., sponsored by Meta.
Last year was Rolling Stone’s most profitable in two decades.
Here’s my take. Hey radio, Rolling Stone just handed you the road map back to relevance. Of course, broadcasters like the future just the way it is. But, they’re doomed without a wholesale commitment to greatness.
Job one is to regain influence. Stop boasting about radio’s wide distribution and leapfrog your competition with a better listening experience. Lean into reinvention. Though it will probably take aggressive, new owners to forge the way.
Show some courage. Hire creators who’ll test the limits. Get comfortable knowing that most will flame out, but you’ll discover some stars.
Online streaming should be ad-free. Why has radio streaming stalled? Because the onslaught of commercials is unlistenable. Make it free (for now). And while you’re at it, replace robotic DJs with authentic personalities. Then, retire the hollow slogans, lame jingles and morning zoos.
It’s time to grow a pair.