We’re old enough to remember when Rolling Stone was a cultural force, not just a three-star rubber-stamper (and blog punching bag), so we feel bad about piling on, but do we really need a RS-based MySpace ripoff? Via We Want Media:
[Former Maxim and current RollingStone.com head Keith] Blanchard plans to launch a separate site that will be a social network for music fans, complete with profiles and the ability to have a say in their “Best of” lists. Blanchard called it the “American Idol version of lists.”
We can hear the desperate scream: “We still matter!” But they don’t seem to be addressing any need or adding anything new. So, the failure here is sort of built-in. Maybe we’re missing a crucial detail (or the important part of the business plan), but it seems like RS is a) failing to ask big enough questions, or b) coming up with really bad answers. Either way they’re not bringing much to the party. The “American Idol version” of lists? Excuse us for not giving a fuck.
A more valuable (and viable) question would be: How could MySpace be improved? Social networking aside, it’s an amazingly valuable tool from a music perspective — both for artists and fans — as it decentralizes music (by allowing bands to make an end-run around the label system), even as it centralizes by putting all of those bands in the same place. All this, you know. But we bet we’re not the only ones who think it’s a bit of an unwieldy mess.
We could think of a few fixes to MySpace (fewer pedophiles), none of which would involve the controlling “influence” of Rolling Stone. This is sad, in a way, and has sparked much internal debate. We’d like to think that what we do can exist alongside traditional, Rolling Stone-style journalism. But it seems that blogs (not just ours) have been pulling more than their share of the weight as far as breaking bands, reporting news, and capturing what it means to love music in the early 21st century.
Over at Rolling Stone, once a paragon of long-form innovation, editor Ed Needham admits that he doesn’t even bother to read long articles in magazines. “People just don’t have as much time to read,” he told USA Today. His boss, Jann Wenner, seems to agree. Via Columbia Journalism Review:
“Back when Rolling Stone was publishing these seven-thousand-word stories, there was no CNN, no Internet,” Wenner told the Times. “And now you can travel instantaneously around the globe, and you don’t need these long stories to get up to speed.”
And so the magazines turn into blogs. Great for blogs, but also bad for music lovers. What happened to serious music journalism? Apparently RS is archiving all of its back issues, and making them available online and on DVD, a la the New Yorker, so we can trace the slow devolution from 1965-present. We’ll take our fair share of the blame (and credit) for the change, but it seems like a sad endeavor.
A last thought, this from n+1, one of our favorite smart-guy (and gal) mags. A look inside the casting process for the shitshow that was I’m From Rolling Stone.
[The candidates] claimed to be “inspired” by Hunter S. Thompson?but not inspired to mock hypocrisy and greed, not inspired to rage at a world that needed their rage to wake it up. They were just “inspired.” They were inspired by fame. They were excited to join the passionate and musical adventure in the sky that was a job at Rolling Stone.
And so, Rolling Stone’s moribund future collides head-on with its glorious past, and all of us suffer the consequences (those of us who sat through an episode of I’m From Rolling Stone, anyway). We wish that Rolling Stone would spend less energy and effort trying to be every blog, and more time trying to be … Rolling Stone. Bring back the 7,000-word think piece! Bring back the long-form interview! As music fans, we’d all be better for it, even if it means the venerable magazine falls on the sword of consumer indifference in the end.