Wenner Media is selling Rolling Stone, its last magazine brand, just shy of its 50th anniversary.
The publisher sold its other two magazines, Us Weekly and Men’s Journal, to American Media Inc. earlier this year. It continues to publish Glixel, its video-games site launched last November.
“I love my job, I enjoy it, I’ve enjoyed it for a long time,” founder Jann Wenner, 71, told The New York Times, which broke the story. Wenner added that letting go of the title is “just the smart thing to do.”
“Publishing is a completely different industry than what it was,” he told the NYT. “The trends go in one direction, and we are very aware of that.”
Once known as the counterculture music, pop-culture and entertainment magazine founded by Wenner in 1967, the publication has recently been caught in controversy. That includes a huge blow to its reputation when it retracted a discredited 2014 article about a rape at the University of Virginia. Rolling Stone was hit with three libel lawsuits as a result, and has had to pay $3 million in damages.
Rolling Stone has also moved away from its core coverage of the music industry, investing more time and resources into politics and culture reporting, president of The Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group John Amato previously told Publishers Daily.
Instrumental in Rolling Stone’s sale plans is Wenner’s 27-year-old son, Gus Wenner, whose role at the media company has steadily grown. He is now president and COO of Wenner Media.
The younger Wenner has made difficult cuts to the company's assets, in response to financial pressures. Last year, Wenner Media sold a 49% stake in Rolling Stone to BandLab Technologies, a Singapore-based music and media company.
"There's a level of ambition that we can't achieve alone," Wenner told the NYT in an interview last week. "So we are being proactive and want to get ahead of the curve."
Both Wenners intend to stay on at Rolling Stone, but said that decision will ultimately fall on the new owner.
While it is not clear who that new owner could be, some are noting that American Media has already bought most of Wenner Media's publications.
Rolling Stone’s print and online publications reach 60 million people each month.
The times they are a-changin'. The publishing environment has been hit with declining circulations and falling print advertising revenue. This month, four prominent and longstanding top editors announced their decisions to step down from the helms of big magazines, including Nancy Gibbs of Time, Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair, Robbie Myers of Elle and Cindi Leive of Glamour.