News January 29, 2018

End for Australian edition of Rolling Stone after 48 years as current publisher goes into administration?

End for Australian edition of Rolling Stone after 48 years as current publisher goes into administration?

It could be the end of the road for Rolling Stone Australia, after its publisher of four years, Paper Riot Pty Ltd, went into external administration, according to an ASIC filing.

“Paper Riot is in liquidation and will no longer be publishing Rolling Stone in Australia,” Paper Riot founder and Rolling Stone Australia Editor Matthew Coyte told Mumbrella.

“The license has reverted back to the owner, Rolling Stone International. I can’t tell you what their plans are moving forward or make any further comment.”

It has an office in Sydney with a small staff. But while print magazines, especially monthly ones, struggled with digital disruption, the magazine’s editorial content quality remained high, paying top rate payment for writers and accompanying their stories with exclusive portraits.

The Australian edition presumably faced the same problem which saw its US founder Jann Wenner offload the American version in December 2017 to Penske Media (Variety) for an estimated US$50 million.

Media analysts contacted by TMN over the weekend expressed the view that while the Australian edition retained its high brand recognition, it fell victim to an all-common scenario where younger audience were taking all its info from online and an older audience was drifting away.

Since being founded in 1967 in San Francisco as a ground breaking music, politics and culture publication, there have been 21 international editions of Rolling Stone.

These have included in the UK, Japan, France, Germany. India, Italy, Indonesia, Brazil, the Middle and Russia.

The Australian version has been the longest lasting of all.

In the 1980s, while the American version was catering for baby boomers with legacy acts on its cover, Australia’s was being more relevant covering the rising electronic, post new wave and DIY scenes in this country.

Rolling Stone’s 48 years in Australia has been turbulent as far as publishers went.

It was first introduced to the Australian market by teen pop weekly magazine Go-Set publisher Phillip Frazer who made the licensing deal directly with Wenner in August 1971.

At the time Go-Set was trying to grow up with its original audience.

So Rolling Stone content was used within a newly introduced ‘underground’ section of Go-Set called Core as well as music, politics and radical lifestyle ideas monthly Revolution.

In early 1972, there was enough of an audience for it for Frazer to launch Rolling Stone Australia as a stand-alone, initially published every two weeks, using the bulk of the American edition with local content.

In 1974, with Frazer planning to move to New York, the licensing rights went for a reportedly nominal sum to a Sydney consortium of business journalists and advertising agency execs Paul Gardiner, his wife Jane Mathieson and Paul Comrie Thomson.

They spent money on production and journalism rates, and built it up to be a high quality monthly with a circulation of 35,000 readers looking for thought-provoking in-depth articles about the new music on double/ triple j and community radio stations, and the lifestyles they represented.

Among their editors were Ed St. John and John O’Donnell who went on to head BMG and Warner Music, and EMI, respectively,.

By 1987, Gardiner, Mathieson and Paul Comrie Thomson had become bored, it wasn’t making much money, and they were getting frustrated with a lack of Wenner’s support.

Gardiner and Comrie Thomson have since passed.

A number of bidders applied for the rights. The winners were university friends Phillip Keir, his wife Lisa-Belle Furhagen and his friend Toby Creswell who was Stone editor in 1985.

By September 1992, the marriage had broken up, and Keir bought out the other two and retained Rolling Stone under Next Media.

Furhagen and Creswell set up Terraplane and launched Juice in direct competition. By 2002 Terraplane had collapsed after an unsuccessful share float.

Furhagen remained in publishing, Keir worked on the Keir Foundation which he set up In 2004, to work on philanthropic projects for the arts and music sector and Creswell went on to a prolific career as book author, TV shows and documentaries all based around music.

In 2008 Next Media Pty Ltd was purchased by Worseley Media, in a deal that saw mass media ACP Magazines (later Bauer Media) acquire Rolling Stone, giving it a relaunch with a new look and size.

By November 2013 its Editor In Chief, musician and one-time Australian Guitar editor Coyte (who in an interview a year before indicated Stone’s circulation was 22,000) found the magazine suffocating within Bauer Media, and took it the independent route under his company Paper Riot.

It expanded the Stone brand with a website, annual awards and a series of live shows.

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