Controversy has paid off for Rolling Stone magazine. Its August-issue cover featuring Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sparked a rash of criticism and media attention -- and a major boost in sales.
According to a report from Adweek.com via sales information from the Magazine Information Network, Rolling Stone’s average per-issue sales in July increased 102 percent, effectively double the publication’s average sales from the previous year. The data was reportedly based on copies purchased from 1,420 retailers between July 19-29, numbering 13,232.
The Wenner Media magazine's decision to put Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old college student charged in the Boston Marathon bombing, met with harsh criticism nationwide. Following some retailers' decision to pull the magazine and readers threatening to boycott future editions, the magazine released a statement defending its decision to feature the Chechen native, calling him a relevant topic for their readers.
“Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families. The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone’s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day,” said the editors. “The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.”
Rolling Stone’s latest controversial cover was compared to the edition in 1970 that featured Charles Manson, now 78, infamous for his connection in the murder of actress Sharon Tate. According to Adweek.com, the Manson edition was also a bestseller for the magazine.