Tuesday, December 05, 2006


If you've read my pitch about subscribing to Salon.com, then you know that one of the fringe benefits they offer is an opportunity, from time to time, to cop a free subscription to some other (print) magazine.

I like a stack o' free reading material for the bathroom, coffee table, and nightstand as much as the next guy. However …

The latest issue of Rolling Stone arrived a few days ago, wrapped in plastic, bundled with an offer to renew the subscription at some massive discount. (The freebies from Salon typically last six or twelve months.) It's telling that I just got around to opening it today. I'm very sad to say, a magazine that I once gladly paid cover price for is now not even worth getting for free.

I know I'm fast approaching geezerhood, so I'm discounting the fact that I don't care about most of the bands mentioned. (Although I did have to laugh when three of the first issues I got had Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, and The Who as cover boys.) If I did care about the bands, I'd be even more pissed at RS. The stories typically have all the depth of the rags cluttering the checkout line at the grocery store. Most of the photography is, charitably, Discount Paparazzi. The "interviews" take all of nine seconds to read.

Here's another gripe: Like Wired and every other magazine that started out with other aims, RS has become way too much of a gear mag. I get that pimping trinkets helps sell ad space to those manufacturers, but really. Page after page of cell phone reviews? Glossy spreads on the "ten hottest" iPod wannabes? Snooze. Why kill trees just to repeat the same fluff that can be found on a million different web sites?

Most crucially, the writing and reporting just ain't there anymore. I mean, RS used to have Hunter Thompson and Timothy Crouse on staff. And remember the old motto? "All the news that fits we print?" RS used to scare the Establishment. Now they're just trying to be part of it. Apart from Maureen Dowd's interview with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert a few issues back, I couldn't tell you one other piece that I've read during the whole subscription run that was worth anything.

The final straw came when I read a story about some of the top young players in the Web biz. (It might have been in the MD/JS/SC issue.) It was so surfacey as to be unbearable. When I read tripe like this, I am unsure whether to blame the media for causing or just enabling the ADD epidemic.

So today, shortly after I happily chucked the renewal offer in the trash where it belongs, I happened across a post on Blake Ross's blog. Ross is, for all intents and purposes, Mr. Firefox. He's an amazing guy in many ways, not least of which is his class in dealing with being the most publicized teenager since LeBron James. Read his "Historians Deem Rolling Stone Most Accurate Publication Ever."

And weep for the Rolling Stone that once was.

[Update 2006-12-05 22:43 EDT]: Speaking of Blake Ross, he's been working on a new project, and finally spilled a few details recently. The November issue of Spectrum has an article, unfortunately titled "The Firefox Kid," that's pretty good. A good mix of software geekiness and human profile.

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