I wonder what young Jann Wenner would say

When I read this Ad Age interview with Jann Wenner, I thought of all the iconic photography of him from the late 1960s and early 1970s, much of it shot by Annie Leiboviz.

Click on this photo of he and Hunter Thompson and you’ll see him in 1976 — nearly a decade after he’d started Rolling Stone. Changing journalism — including the gonzo variety. Changing publishing. Chronicling the changing world. But already wearing a business suit — a decade and a lifetime after that 1967 photo on the left was shot, when Wenner was 20 and Rolling Stone was just starting.

Back then, Rolling Stone was new media and the launch pad of new journalism. But one decade after it started, Wenner and Hunter Thompson were together in that photo on the right, at a party Rolling Stone was throwing for Jimmy Carter’s campaign staff. Really.

It doesn’t seem that long ago, just four decades or so.

The reason I thought of those photos was because after reading the AdAge interview I started wondering how, if that young Jann Werner were around today, he would react to the old Jann Werner using the interview to slam the big magazine companies he competes with, for obsessing over the iPad, describing such obsession as “just sheer insanity and insecurity and fear.” Print magazines, he says, are not going the way of the CD.


“So I think that they’re prematurely rushing and showing little confidence and faith in what they’ve really got, their real asset, which is the magazine itself, which is still a great commodity. It’s a small additive; it’s not the new business…(On how long it will take for there to be a shift from print to iPad-like devices)…Not months. Decades, probably. People’s habits will shift, they’ll make improvements in the delivery system, the screen will change, it will get lighter, whatever, and new people growing up will find that as a habit. But you’re talking about a generation at least, maybe two generations, before the shift is decisive.”

That, from a guy who went from a $6,000 startup in San Francisco to throwing parties for campaign staffs of nominees for President of the United States in less than a decade.

Ironically (as I’m someone who blogs an awful lot about iPads and digital devices), I tend to agree with Wenner. A lot about how big magazine companies are obsessed with the iPad seems a bit insane to me. But then, when you are as old as he is (which I’ll point out, is a decade older than me) you think change takes longer than change did when you were in your 20s.

[via: Poynter.org]