August 11, 2008 / 11:15 PM / 10 years ago

Rolling Stone magazine goes down a size

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rolling Stone magazine unveiled plans on Monday for a major design overhaul, scaling down its signature large-format pages to a more traditional magazine size in a bid to bolster sagging newsstand sales.

The U.S. pop culture magazine will end the oversized look that for more than 30 years has distinguished it from rival publications starting with an issue set to hit newsstands on October 17.

“It feels to me just like a natural step for us to take,” said Will Dana, managing editor at Rolling Stone. “It’s always exciting to shake things up a bit and to grow and to do things differently.”

Officials with Wenner Media, the magazine’s publisher, said Rolling Stone’s circulation has grown to an all-time high of more than 1.5 million.

But single-copy sales on news racks slumped to 115,644 for the first six months of 2008, down from 142,062 for the last six months of 2007, the company said.

“We’ve been challenged at the newsstand recently, which is an industry-wide trend, and the decline pretty much mirrors where we are vis-a-vis our competitors,” Dana said.

The company expects the new format will boost single-copy sales because in the past the magazine’s size has proved somewhat unwieldy for retailers to prominently display.

One of the few major U.S. magazines of the same size as the current Rolling Stone is the sports-oriented publication ESPN, an offshoot of the cable network, officials from Wenner said.

Rolling Stone began in 1967 in San Francisco, and the magazine is mainly dedicated to music and pop culture. Appearing on its cover has long been coveted by musicians around the world, and was even the subject of a hit song, “The Cover of The Rolling Stone,” by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Steve Gorman

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