Rolling Stone has rolled out its new Web site today, er, tomorrow. Or something. More importantly, for the first time in a long time, it's in charge of its own online destiny. A deal with RealNetworks, which ran the magazine's online presence, has expired, and so full control of the site is back in Jann Wenner's hands—and not before time. "Here's something we're excited about," they trumpet. "On April 19, we'll be relaunching a redesigned, reimagined rollingstone.com." Aaaand, cue dry ice.
For $3.95 per month (although that decreases to $1.87 if you sign up for a two-year subscription) you'll get the complete Rolling Stone archive all the way back to 1967, delivery of the dead-tree version to your door, and online access to the print version. However, although they've trumpeted the launch as today, the subscription page of the site claims it's coming tomorrow.
The news section doesn't look particularly up to date—apparently, some bands might miss Coachella due to the small matter of the burping volcano in Iceland (sorry, can't be bothered to spell its name for the 17th time, just run your hand across the keyboard yourself)—and photos from the current issue do not seem to be available online, nor do any photos accompanying top features. And what's rock, really, without pictures (the exception, of course, is Will.i.am, whose face you can see at any grand opening of, say, a toilet bowl).
And it's a bit sad that the most exciting feature of the long-needed re-design is access to content that's ... old. Even Will Dana's intro to the spankin' new site is accompanied by a screen grab featuring old—or dead—guys: Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, John Lennon.... It will also be interesting to see just how popular its paywall will be among music fans—after all, music is the most pirated content around, so will they be willing to pay for a digital version of the magazine?
Jann and the gang might be interested in a YouGov survey for KPMG UK released today that claims that, while media consumption has gone up sharply, consumers are spending less on their media—both traditional and digital—than they were last year.
According to the firm's Media and Entertainment Barometer, media spend by consumers has halved in the past six months. Digital is down from just over $3 to $1.50 per month, while consumption is up from 6 hours and 14 minutes to 7 hours and 28 minutes. Of that, the average user spent 6.6 hours per month looking at online news, citing its availability, the fact that it's free, and because they already spend so much time at their computers.
Out of the 1,000-plus people surveyed in September 2009 and March 2010, was that the people most likely to pay for media content online were from the 16 to 24 age group, who cited films and music as something they would pay for. News and media, however, are still something that people expect to get for free. And that, I would guess, includes Rolling Stone.