News & Opinion | March 6, 2018 11:30 am

Is It Possible for Rolling Stone to Become Cool Again?

Jay Penske, the scion of an auto-racing empire, has a shot to turn the it around—if he can make it safe for millennials.

rolling stone
Jay Penske has a real shot at turning Rolling Stone around. (Adam Warner/LAT/Formula E via Getty Images)
Formula E via Getty Images

It has been two-and-a-half months since Rolling Stone, founded by Jann Wenner in 1967, found a safe harbor in Jay Penske, a 39-year-old automotive scion whose Penske Media Corporation acquired 51 percent of the stake in the magazine. In a roughly $50 million deal that closed on December 20, Penske’s majority investment valued parent company Wenner Media at a reported $100 million, which brought in a much-need flash of optimism to a publication that has been facing a downward spiral over the past decade. Penske has allowed the brand’s brain to live, writes Vanity Fair, and Jann and his 27-year-old son, Gus, are staying on the payroll as editorial director and president/chief operating officer, respectively. Before this, Penske purchased Variety in 2012 and Women’s Wear Daily in 2014 — two ailing publications that he was able to infuse with new sex appeal and financial promise. But Rolling Stone will be a bigger challenge. The magazine is going monthly, with a print and digital overhaul scheduled to debut by June. About 20 people were let go a couple of weeks ago, and the savings will be redirected to editorial to the tune of a 20 percent budget increase and Rolling Stone editors now have a bunch of new jobs to fill. Penske Media Corporation is on the prowl for brand-name recruits. Before Penske came into view, the magazine was seen dead in the water. But he could help the magazine make a comeback, as long as he can figure out what Rolling Stone means to a millennial audience, or younger.