Rolling Stone’s feature on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev resulted in 102% more sales at the newsstand than the same time period last year according to Adweek this past Wednesday. The cover photo of Tsarnaev stirred public outrage and spurred retailers including CVS, Walgreens and Boston-area supermarket chain Roche Bros to boycott the issue when it was published last month.
Retailers reported sales of 13,232 copies from July 19-29, double Rolling Stone’s newsstand sales in the same period in 2012.
The Facebook post of cover image of the iconic magazine was followed by an explosion of outraged followers:
- “Been a subscriber since 1982,” Tim Snell wrote. “Canceling tonight. I am beyond words…”
- “I am ending my subscription,” David Beck wrote. “This is bull—-. Let’s honor those who hurt innocent people.”
- “This is appalling, reckless journalism created for shock and profit,” Bill Lowell wrote. “Why glorify a killer and terrorist? The magazine’s irresponsible thoughtless actions will only promote the next sad individual to act out his horrific deeds.”
- Why give the guy the cover of Rolling Stone?” wrote one identified as Shawn Anthony, who said it was wrong to make a celebrity out of Tsarnaev. “Don’t make martyrs out of these people.”
- “Oh look, Rolling Stone magazine is glamorizing terrorism. Awesome,” posted Adrienne Graham. “I will NOT be buying this issue, or any future issues.”
Rolling Stone didn’t budge or apologize.
Rolling Stone defended the story. “Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families,” the magazine said in a statement. “The cover story … falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone’s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the world’s most important political and cultural issues of the day,” it added.
This begs the question. Do Americans love controversy? It almost seems at times like people are craving the next scandal – trying to find something, anything that can be considered controversial.
UPDATE 8/7/13: The extra 6,681 copies sold for $4.99 made a grand total of $33,338 gross retail. After you factor in retail and wholesaler/distributor’s cut of the cover price, Rolling Stone would most likely get half — about $15,000. Pulling back the curtain on “Rolling Stone Newsstand Sales Double,” Rolling Stone is only grossing an extra $15,000. Not very exciting, since the advertising rate card says one page of advertising in Rolling Stone sells for $201,510 gross and $171,284 net. The loss of just one advertiser would be 10 times worse than the small gains at the newsstand.