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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rolling Stone downsizes format, USPS cries

submitted by Deena

On Monday, Rolling Stone announced that the magazine size would be officially changing. Always known for its trademark larger format, the publication will switch to the standard magazine size for its October 30 issue (on sale 10/17).

"All you’re getting from that large size is nostalgia," RS editor-in-chief Jann Wenner told the New York Times. "I myself was kind of torn about it." As am I, but for exactly the same reason--what I know and have come to love is changing, and I'm just being stubborn.

Some articles I've read cite declining off-the-rack sales as the root cause of the switch (often times RS is relegated to obscure places on bookshelves because of its current size)--a valid reason--but most literature fails to point out that the postage RS pays to mail their odd sized magazine is probably outrageous. The USPS's ever-tightening rules about mailing sizes and ever-increasing postage rates are sure to make anyone think twice about mailing an extra-large format magazine, let alone over a million of them. I'll bet they'll save at least as much in postage for the new format as they gain in rack sales. Not to mention maybe I will get all my issues in one piece--I can't tell you how many times I've received ripped and bent issues in the mail, undoubtedly due to the larger size.

And although the pages will be smaller, the magazine plans to add 16 to 20 more of them per issue, so readers are still going to get a fairly equivalent amount of content. RS will also switch to heavier, glossy paper and will be glued rather than stapled, giving it a flat spine rather than a tapered edge, according to the Times. I certainly won't complain about the paper improvements, as better paper also leads to better image quality. These changes may also help with mailing, as it will be sturdier than the previous format.

So while I shudder to think that my beloved Rolling Stone will now lose a bit of its uniqueness, I have to applaud them for making what will likely turn out to be a smart business decision and allow them to better compete with the Blenders of the world.


Scott said...

I'm not sure how I feel about this. It does take away their uniqueness.

tony said...

Interesting insight...sounds like it comes from experience!