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Rolling Stone

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rollingstone.com

For over five decades now – that’s right, for more than half of a century – Rolling Stone magazine has been one of the most important, daring, unique, and revolutionary institutions of quality journalism that the world has ever seen. Rolling Stone has reported on some of the most pivotal moments in global affairs and has built itself a hearty reputation of being a beacon of the counterculture – with a commitment to honest and unflinching reportage, an eye for fascinating and unsung stories, and an ability to adapt and change with the constantly shifting cultural tides, Rolling Stone has proven to be much more than merely a passing fad.

Not every print magazine of the 20th century has been able to remain flexible and adapt to an online format, at least not to the same degree of success that Rolling Stone has. In recent years, the magazine, since focusing more on their web presence than their print magazine sales, has shifted their focus quite a bit.

Whereas they were once the authority on rock and roll music and alternative forms of journalism, the Rolling Stone of today has become less an onslaught of political op-eds and somewhat esoteric album reviews, and more a trusted online source for news on pop culture and entertainment. If you are looking for a reliable source of breaking stories surrounding your favorite shows, movies, and celebrities, rollingstone.com is the site for you.

In fact, I know a number of film buffs, media heads, and pop culture journalists who swear by Rolling Stone, marking it as their web browser’s home page. For up to date entertainment news, the Rolling Stone of today is as credible and fast-paced as it was for scathing political commentary and music criticism in the past. Even though Rolling Stone’s focus on content has changed over the years, the one thing that has remained constant is the media giant’s emphasis on quality and accuracy in reporting.

History

Rolling Stone magazine started out as a monthly American publication. Founded in 1967 by Jann Wenner (who is still the publisher to this day) in San Francisco, California, the magazine quickly built a name for itself by publishing articles that were as outside the box as they were smart and of literary merit. During the magazine’s first years, co-founder of the magazine, music critic Ralph J. Gleason gave Rolling Stone the rock and roll edge that it became known for, curating and contributing a plethora of authoritative rock and roll music reviews – many music critics of today cite the original reviews in Rolling Stone as their inspiration and credit these articles for laying out the blueprint of contemporary music reviewing as a whole.

Another writer, however, that contributed to Rolling Stone in the magazine’s formative years also left a mark on the literary world forever. Hunter S. Thompson was infamous for regularly contributing to Rolling Stone in the late ‘60s through the 1970s, and he continued to do so periodically until his untimely death in 2005. Thompson – most well-known for his books Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Hell’s Angels – laid the foundation for the contrarian kind of political reporting that would become part and parcel at Rolling Stone well through the 90s, when they began shifting their focus to entertainment news. At its peak, though, the magazine was a cornerstone of a burgeoning literary genre, what some have dubbed ‘outlaw journalism.’

The reason cited for this shift in coverage was to appeal to a younger audience. And, so, Rolling Stone began covering politics and music with less frequency, opting, instead to feature news on youthful TV shows, actors, blockbuster movies, and popular music. The magazine, many have said, began favoring “style over substance.” Regardless of your opinions on the magazine’s gradual shift to pop culture, one thing is for certain: the Rolling Stone of today hardly resembles the hard-boiled literary magazine of the 60s, 70s, and early 80s.

This complete overhaul of content, however, has lent itself perfectly to the oft media-obsessed readers of the internet age. And although some may be critical of Rolling Stone for watering itself down and becoming increasingly vapid over the years, you can’t argue with the fact that it has held onto its position as a top publication in the world, nor that it isn’t arguably more commercially successful than ever before.

Design

I quite like the look and layout of rollinstone.com. The site designers have managed to simultaneously uphold the magazine’s iconic aesthetic while also giving it a subtle update, making it look and feel as modern as it should. In other words, the site looks like a classic Rolling Stone magazine issue but reads and functions just as easily and quickly as, say, any of the most current tech news sites out there. It is a delightful blend of the nostalgic and the cutting edge – giving it a much classier feel, for lack of a better term than the overwhelming majority of entertainment news sites in competition with Rolling Stone.

Content

The site has a magazine’s layout, with stories arranged in a sort of collage of pictures and headlines on the site’s home page. However, it doesn’t feel cluttered the way that a magazine sometimes can, as if too many things are vying for your attention at one time. It is nicely organized and cleanly laid out. Plus, there is a convenient site menu bar at the top of the page that gives even further guidance to help you find exactly the kind of story you came for, separating content by Music, TV, Movies, Politics, Culture, Video, Charts, and RS Pro.

Desktop and Mobile Experience

Fully optimized for either a desktop or mobile browser, you should have a streamlined and enjoyable experience of rollingstone.com no matter what device you are reading on. The ads aren’t awful (which is more than most entertainment news sites can say for themselves), and text leads into streaming video content seamlessly and with ease. Your experience will be, more or less, uninterrupted – that is to say, slightly more interrupted with ads and promotions on a smartphone than on a desktop – but I don’t find myself too annoyed when browsing this site either way. Plus, there is a Rolling Stone app, which will give you a much cleaner mobile experience.

Plans and Pricing

Although most of rollingstone.com is free to use, hardcore fans of the magazine can subscribe in order to receive the print copy of Rolling Stone at their door every month. For $49.99 for the year, you get the print issue and a free tote. For a one-time fee of $59.99, you get the print issue for a year, a free tote, and digital copies of the magazine, available on all tablets, smartphones, and computers.

Rolling Stone is also currently in the process of rolling out RS Pro, which is aimed at people in the entertainment industry, journalists, and other media professionals. RS pro will contain tons of insider information and research tools … however, a price has yet to be announced.

Suggestions I Have

As far as online reading experiences go, Rolling Stone is definitely up there. The articles are well written, accurate, well researched, and consistently good – as they should be, standing in the shadows of a long history of literary greatness. However, I would like to see Rolling Stone become politically sharp once again. Sure, they still have articles about politics, but they are far from the scathing and unapologetic pieces they dared to publish in the 60s and 70s.

Now that they have built a solid base of a more ‘youthful’ audience with entertainment news, why not publish pieces that are as immensely important, intellectually stimulating, and rebellious as the original spirit of Rolling Stone once was? The times are just as (if not more) politically treacherous as they were when this magazine was founded. I think it’s time for Rolling Stone to truly wield the sword of the written word once again instead of publishing almost exclusively fluff pieces about pop culture – but maybe that’s just me.

Likes & Hates:
Clean, organized site layout
Easy to use, intuitive site design
Well-written, engaging pop culture articles
Solid app and desktop experience
Good blend of text and video
RS pro resource for professionals
Relatively vapid content for magazine’s history
Subscription could come with additional online perks