Rolling Stone publisher Wenner says rush to iPad born of ‘sheer insanity, insecurity, and fear’

“Nobody mistakes Jann Wenner — whose Wenner Media publishes Rolling Stone, Us Weekly and Men’s Journal — for a digital fanboy. He was lukewarm enough on the internet to let another company license and run from 2003 through 2010. Last year he orchestrated a magazine industry ad campaign promoting the ‘power of print,'” Nat Ives reports for Ad Age.

“But his tentative take on even the iPad may dismay the big publishing powers, which hope tablets will deliver a better kind of digital platform for magazines, one that means significant business in a matter of years,” Ives reports. “He thinks it will be decades. ‘You’re talking about a generation at least, maybe two generations, before the shift is decisive,’ he said.”

Look at the music industry as an example. I think it’s split about 50-50 between CDs and digital delivery. There is a place where there are extraordinary advantages in the distribution delivery system. Otherwise the products are indistinguishable; there’s no difference in the physical products as there is here.

And yet it’s still a generational shift going on. And we [publishers] are far away from that. We have a much different and more unique product than just the CD… The lesson for magazine publishing business is not to rush like the music business should have done, because it’s a different product. Music is really easily reducible to digital. There’s a different beat to it.

Be attuned. Get ready to make the moves. Be adept at moving quickly to the changes. But to rush to throw away your magazine business and move it on the iPad is just sheer insanity and insecurity and fear. – Jann Wenner

Much more in the full article here.


  1. how can a counterculture youth based magazine ignore their most important demographic and still try to remain relevant? Jann has prob. gone senile. The music industry lost their clout because they came too late to the digital party and had to negotiate from a point of weakness.

  2. “Otherwise the products are indistinguishable; there’s no difference in the physical products as there is here.”

    I agree with the sentiment that it would be foolish to rush into an iPad edition just to have one. He probably is not too far off to think that 10-15 years is necessary for tablet subscriptions to be the majority. But his reasons are fairly off point.

    First, from his quote, he believes that the physical nature of the print edition is unique to magazines in a way that was not true for music. Sorry, Jann, but we heard how much people “cherish” their albums stopping digital music already. No, digital distribution does NOT always deliver the exact same thing as a CD (some download stores do, of course). What is more, music magazines are the exact kind of publication that should be transitioning to digital (in the full article, he says that Popular Mechanics makes more sense because of “techie” readers) – video with interviews, uh..what else…uh, oh, yeah..FUCKING MUSIC! You are writing a magazine and think that digital distribution could not possibly make sense with your product because people want to hold your magazine in their hands?!?!?! A review with a few seconds of songs would not work? What the fuck? Maybe, I don’t know, add links for buying the music to get a small cut?!?!?!

    I agree that they should not rush out a bad iPad app. But they should hurry to make a good one because Rolling Stone, like the music industry, will probably not open their eyes before it is too late.

  3. And from someone who truley enjoys music, I’ll take an uncompressed CD over a crappy digital download anyday. They get that small by trowing bits of your music away…. Not to mention you get a lovely backup copy of it on a CD

    1. When you buy from iTunes you have the backup in the iTune’s store. If you lose the song one your computer, you can just download it again, no charge.

  4. For all the hi-tech prognosticators soothsaying against Wenner’s opinion, I can only conclude few (if any of you) of you actually read the entire article.

    It is also apparent few of you (midwestmac being the exception so far) know squat about publishing. The iPad (and tablets in general) are going to change the publishing landscape. That does not mean the end of books and magazines, any more than the invention of the automobile meant the extinction of the horse.

    I find quite telling that MDN (which is in the publishing business, but not print) did not have a typical MDN snarky “take”. Could it be they recognized the validity ofof what he said? He was spot on about the music industry.

    And, BTW, he didn’t diss the iPad. Learn to comprehend, people, and don’t be knee-jerk reactionaries. You’re starting to sound like 60’s and 70’s Republicans.

  5. Books and mags will be around for a long time, morphing to fit requirements, much like other media businesses.

    Print objects will need to work harder at the IWOOT factor.

    Example – Esquire’s September 209 hardback issue. I snapped it up, but haven’t bought an ordinary bendy mag since.

  6. “But to rush to throw away your magazine business and move it on the iPad is just sheer insanity and insecurity and fear. – Jann Wenner”


    It’s also highly amusing to read someone using FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) to taint moving to digital publishing as “insanity and insecurity and fear.” Someone’s personal emotions are showing just a little bit too much. Watch out Mr. Jenner before something comes up behind you and BYTES you!

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