The book "Sticky Fingers" by Joe Hagan reminds us of the days when both celebrities and wannabes dreamed about being "on the cover of Rolling Stone."
They would be seen in newsstands around the world, and throughout Manhattan's Grand Central.
It was a different time. Yet, one we aren't ready to let go of. Not yet.
That biography of Jann Wenner, founder of Rolling Stone, ranks 592 on Amazon. Each of its 511 pages of text brings back some aspect of an era when publishers and editors, not influencers on social media, had the power.
In addition, Hagan delivers a comprehensive profile of Wenner. Think of Hagan as the David Rossi ("Criminal Minds") of media personalities, instead of serial killers. We gain amazing insight into how ambition takes over a human being and what that person will do to keep feeding it fresh meat.
That was then. Currently, Rolling Stone is for sale. It had been experiencing financial challenges. And its branding never really recovered from the sloppy journalism of the "Jackie" rape story.
On the Hive, the digital part of Vanity Fair, Joe Pompeo wrote yesterday how potential buyers are kicking the tires at the Rolling Stone.
Vanity Fair is owned by Conde Nast, which itself is in trouble. Sources claim it lost $100 million and could be conducting layoffs. The outsized media player Graydon Carter retired from overseeing Vanity Fair. And, ultimately, some deep pocket could acquire Conde Nast.
But digital publications have also lost a lot of their power. Gawker pushed the boundaries too far and "Hogan v. Gawker" put it out of business. Buzzfeed and Mashable are struggling.
Where power has flowed is to:
- The undergraduate at a Manhattan university who has more than 85,000 followers on her Instagram fashion site.
- Former BigLaw associate who rants on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn Updates. His day job is heading up a legal digital publication but that's not the juice supplying the megawatt influence.
- Syndicated blogger who can make global think tanks blink (and call a meeting to address this "problem").
The good news is that no longer are an infrastructure and ongoing funding required to get, hold, and grow attention.
The bad news is that the game Wenner played has been mothballed.
Members of Generation Z likely will never understand the wild yearning to be on the cover of the Rolling Stone. Their jobs will probably be about purchasing the right space for their clients' sponsored content for digital sites like Abovethelaw.com.
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