By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

For $2,000, you too can be on the cover of the Rolling Stone

Photo (cc) 2010 by Jim Parkinson

Well, maybe not the cover. But if you want to pay $2,000, you can write an essay that will be published in Rolling Stone. The once-great magazine’s pay-to-play scheme was revealed by The Guardian, which reports: “Rolling Stone magazine is offering ‘thought leaders’ the chance to write for its website if they are willing to pay $2,000 to ‘shape the future of culture.’”

A few observations. First, actual thought leaders don’t have to pay $2,000 in order to be published. Second, they don’t call themselves thought leaders. Third, and most obvious: There is a name for this, and it’s called advertising.

As The Guardian notes, the scheme is at least a cousin to native advertising or branded content, which is advertising in the form of a feature story that is aimed at enticing readers rather than beating them over the head. Properly labeled, there’s nothing wrong with such ads.

But Rolling Stone proposes to go quite a bit further than that. Even if it’s properly labeled, they’ve made themselves a laughingstock. This is embarrassing, right down to the hilariously named “Culture Council” that’s going to vet this crap — a process that I assume will consist mainly of making sure the check cleared.

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  1. Paul Sweeney

    It’s also called scamming journalists into paying for something that they should be paid FOR!

  2. Another thing that irritates me about this is that they didn’t name it “Culture Club.”

  3. Paging John Carroll!

  4. Len Stuart

    This depredation is particularly heartbreaking for those of us old enough to remember the wonderful early work in Rolling Stone of writers like Joe Eszterhas and Cameron Crowe — long before both went the Hollywood Route, not to mention Hunter S. Thompson. I’m sure it inspired a lot of other young journalists starting their careers in the early 70s..

  5. Deborah Nam-Krane

    I hadn’t realized they had fallen so far. As I recall, their credibility took a big hit after the “A Rape on Campus” debacle, and I know they lost at least one big lawsuit. For some reason I thought they’d try to win back their journalistic credibility, not do something like this.

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