NEW YORK – For the first time Rolling Stone is inviting its readers on the long, strange trip though the magazine’s 43-year archive, putting complete digital replicas online along with the latest edition. But you’ll have to pay to see it all.
With a new site launching Monday, Rolling Stone will become one of the most prominent magazines to decide that adding a “pay wall” is the best way to make money on the Web.
To many publishers and media analysts, charging for Web access is the fastest way to drive readers to free competition, where advertisers will follow. But even free sites with lots of readers haven’t been able to charge the kind of rates for advertising that print still commands. As one of the few major consumer magazines now asking readers for an online fee, Rolling Stone is likely to get a close look from the rest of the industry.
The magazine’s revamped home page will remain mostly free. The kind of material that seems to work best on the Web – quick updates on who’s breaking up, slide shows of popular bands on tour – won’t cost readers anything.
But there will be reminders planted throughout the site that full access to Rolling Stone’s latest issue is just a few clicks and a credit card number away.
A one-month pass will cost $3.95 and annual access is $29.99. Online subscribers will automatically get a print subscription, which normally costs $19.95 a year. But print subscribers don’t automatically get Web access.
The magazine has never put a full issue online except to tease an article here and there. On the new site, readers can flip through, search and zoom in on a complete replica of the print edition.
The same goes for every issue since the magazine launched in 1967. If you’re willing to pay, you can peruse a big grid with thumbnail views of every cover.
In an interview, Steven Schwartz, who is heading the revamp as chief digital officer for the magazine’s parent company, Wenner Media, referred to the archive as “the collected history of everyone who’s grown up over the past 40 years.”