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Rolling Stone Site Singing Gimme Shelter

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Rolling Stone Magazine, the venerable iconic publication of all things music with roots in the 1960′s idealism has just taken back their portal from Real Networks management and thrown up a Paywall Strategy for archived content.

Nonplussed with Design & Content Strategy

We are non nonplussed with this brand new spanking online iteration of their publication and integrated social media components. We have to give them credit, it’s certainly flashy, image driven and they are making valiant attempts at leveraging their old content (“Top 500 Greatest Albums of all Time”) but the overall effect is weak.

Fire or demote the designer who came up with the idea of covering over the name -  obscuring their core branding message and the visual is bad to say the least.

The overall site design is busy, the Advertising elements seem to be sprinkled everywhere with Ads and Text Link Ads - as boring as Debbie Boone singing “You Light Up My Life.” (No, no………)

What’s the deal with the black background? The designers must have been thinking black will make the images pop and make us look edgy. But, black doesn’t work - it has connotation of death and porn and makes the liberal usage of red clash. Pick a style guide that’s retro or edgy, but this is all sharp angles, not innovative or very creative.

The Content has 4-5 rows of topics and images, with Ads interspersed on screen right and sprinkled in here and there. It’s so busy and over the top and just plain difficult to make sense of any type of coherent usability strategy other than throw a lot of content at the visitor and something will stick.

Social Elements MIA

Finally, the Social Components are clearly an afterthought at best, with Comments, Likes, Shares, Facebook and Twitter accounts as the primary Social Elements. Where are Blogs, Guest Bloggers, ways to vote on and nominate bands, review shows, tours, contests, etc. The site does not engage the visitor in a meaningful way.

Second pass Social Media integration could involve UStream Broadcasts with interactivity with Rolling Stone’s broad audience, Contests, User Generated Comment uploaded into multiple sections, VBlogging back to Editors - components that engage the community with the portal and make it interactive. It looks like the design team looked at a few random  Ning sites and then threw up a weak attempt at Social Media.

Paywall & Monetization

This is an iconic publication with roots in the 60′s and there is so much more that Jann Wenner (Publisher) could do with this site to make it relevant in the digital world.

Why not trash the advertising altogether and just bring multiple sponsors and have them sponsor individual sections, integrate their branding in the content and Social Media Elements with Contests, Promos, Event Marketing, etc. This would cut down on the overall busyness of the site.

Finally, we can understand their need for some kind of Paywall integration - just pick up a print copy of Time, Newsweek, Men’s Journal (another Wenner Publication) and you can tell ad rates are heading south. We support this move from Free to Freemium (limited access) but wish they rewarded existing subscribers with some kind of discount, recognizing past support of the publication.

Rock on Jann - call us if you want a site that sizzles - we’d love to chat!

Author: admin

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