It seemed rather strange to me. Yes, I have written before about Rolling Stone offering me a tote bag were I to subscribe, as though the publication founded in 1967 was now taking the route of my local PBS station during a fund drive. What, exactly, would someone carry in their official Rolling Stone tote? Presumably not “Downton Abbey” swag. But maybe that is, indeed, what is carried.
There was a clue, however, in the email solicitation recently sent by RS. It indicated that were I to subscribe before the time was up, I would “Get the BTS Issue guaranteed.” There was a photo of the cover of that issue with the seven Korean boys on the cover with a headline above the logo reading “THE FUTURE of MUSIC ISSUE.” Which seemed to be something of a disconnection: wouldn’t the future provide something like a fan with a USB plug on the end that would allow someone to catch a breeze while getting “Instant Access” to:
–Trusted music, TV, and movie reviews
–In-depth political commentary
A tote bag?
As the pandemic is fading, there are an increasing number of people who are out in the market buying things, which is leading to some rather startling numbers. For example, take the Honda HR-V, a small utility vehicle. In May its sales were up 115.8% percent compared with May 2020. Sure, May 2020 was when many people were inside, calculating how to use the available toilet paper to make it last (this is something that deserves deep economic and sociological analyses: how did an allegedly advanced, 21st-century country like the U.S. suddenly have shelves bereft of Charmin and even off-label bog rolls?).
A stat that is perhaps more remarkable than that is the according to Nikkei Asia, in Q4 2020 Big Hit Entertainment had an increase of 122% year-over-year, as the firm made 52.5 billion won. Big Hit is a Korean company. That number in U.S. dollars is $47 million.
And the biggest contributor to that was BTS. That’s right, the band of the future is making big money for Big Hit, accounting for 87.7% of Big Hit’s revenue for the first half of 2020.
Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook are crushing it.
So were you marketing Rolling Stone, wouldn’t you put BTS on the cover, as well as make it part of your sales solicitation efforts? After all, the first issue of Rolling Stone had John Lennon on the cover and probably not because he happened to stumble into the offices of Straight Arrow.
Jann Wenner, who founded Rolling Stone, was not a stupid man. Nor is Jay Penske, who owns Penske Media Corporation, which is the 100% owner of Rolling Stone.
The aforementioned reference to automotive sales is not entirely gratuitous because Jay Penske is the son of Roger Penske, founder of Penske Corporation, which is a leading transportation company. Roger Penske is also the owner of a wide array of auto dealers, vehicle racing teams, and even the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Jay Penske is a Wharton School grad. (Jann Wenner dropped out of Berkeley.) One of Jay Penske’s early ventures was Firefly Mobile, which produced cell phones that were targeted at children. Clearly that sort of savvy is now being deployed at making Rolling Stone a successful venture, which is especially challenging from the perspective of the ink-on-paper property that is part of it.
In 2012 the advertising spending in magazines in the U.S. was $18.3 billion. It is expected to be $8.6 billion in 2022, and with the exception of a banner year in 2007, when it hit $26.2 billion, the spending on ads has done nothing but decline.
Which certainly indicates that Rolling Stone needs to have some of that BTS boy-band magic to help its bottom line.
After all, the day that I received the email solicitation from Rolling Stone I learned that Charlie Watts turned 80. As frightening as it seems, he might use a tote bag, and not just for his sticks.