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.