Rolling Stone’s Boston Bomber Issue Is Selling Well

Early circulation data suggests that controversy sells.


Rolling Stone‘s August 1 issue, which features a photo of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover, is selling quite well according to AdWeek, which obtained circulation data from the Magazine Information Network.

The image of Tsarnaev, which the magazine released a day before it published a lengthy reported profile of him in the accompanying issue, spurred outrage, particularly here in Boston, where people accused the magazine of giving a murderer the rock star treatment. The image earned criticism from our mayor and governor, spurred one Massachusetts State Police photographer to leak dramatic photos of the manhunt for Tsarnaev, and got several major retailers including CVS to pledge not to sell the issue on newsstands.

Despite the somewhat more limited availability, the issue’s newsstand sales have jumped 102 percent over Rolling Stone‘s average per-issue sales in the past year, according to AdWeek. So … there’s the end result of all that ire. A bit of a mea culpa from yours truly is probably due, as I argued that Rolling Stone‘s decision probably wasn’t made to drive newsstand sales, which only account for something like 5 percent of the revenue from each issue. (Kanye West was initially scheduled to appear on the cover.) That may still well be true, since it’s hard to parse whether the issue’s sales were fueled by the sensational cover itself or by, you know, the days and days and days of news stories about the cover running on nearly every news outlet in America. Perhaps this is point of evidence for the school of “just ignore the troll.”