Saturday, April 13, 2024

Rolling Stone Fires Editor in Chief After 2 Years of Blunders and Web Traffic Down 50%


A few weeks ago, in December, I heard that Rolling Stone magazine was worried about web traffic.

My first thought was, aren’t we all? Advertising has gone to shit, and Google is doing everything it can to destroy news sites.

Still, Rolling Stone?

Now editor in chief Noah Schactman has been pushed out the door by Gus Wenner, son of founder Jann Wenner. He was there two years. If you look back on sites like semrush for ballpark traffic numbers, you’ll see Rolling Stone has dropped 50% in two years. I sympathize with them. But I don’t employ 100 people who have expense accounts and health insurance.

Traffic was not Schactman’s biggest problem. In his October 23rd editor’s letter he went after Jann Wenner. I wrote that day that Schactman had thrown Wenner under the bus with a tag line that read: “In the wake of our founder’s offensive comments, we’re taking a hard look at where we’ve been and where we’re going.”

I knew immediately where Schactman was going: out the door. Wenner, of course, had bragged to a NY Times reporter that Black and female music artists weren’t articulate enough to be interviewed by him for his new book. With little good will anyway, Wenner was “Cancelled” over night. He was kicked off the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His book was buried. No one could stop talking about his huge mistake.

But the worst thing that happened was Rolling Stone, his magazine, kicking him when he was down. Schactman had three choices: the editorial he published, saying nothing, or trying to help Wenner get out of the mess. He went with the first option. Imagine Gus Wenner seeing this in the magazine, about his father. That had to be the final straw.

(I don’t know Noah Schactman. But he did a weird thing when famed TV journalist Barbara Walters died at the end of 2022. On social media, and in the magazine, he kept referring her as his “grandmother.” Walters, however, had no grandchildren. At all. His own grandmother had been Walter’s second husband’s third wife. Barbara Walters might have liked Noah Schactman a lot, but she wasn’t his grandmother._

Schactman came to Rolling Stone from The Daily Beast, where his specialty was politics. Rolling Stone has always had a political bent, and Schactman had published some great pieces.

But Rolling Stone is mostly a music magazine, which I had heard repeatedly Schactman didn’t care about. I was told by sources — and it was evident — he had no interest in the music stars who made Rolling Stone popular over decades. The result has been cover after cover featuring what I would call nitwits, people of no interest or stature who are passing fads.

No one takes Rolling Stone seriously anymore. But that may be because the audience has just moved on. When I was your age — I had to say it — we hung on their every word, waiting for The Rolling Stone Interview with the big stars of the day. That ship sailed 30 or 40 years ago, frankly. I doubt it will ever return.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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