Publicity aids Rolling Stone's gen. story

President Barack Obama speaks while U.S. General David Petraeus listens in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: General Stanley McChrystal had a 20 minute meeting with President Obama this morning. That's about all the time it took for the president to accept McChrystal's resignation. Those widely quoted quotes in Rolling Stone were what did the general in. The story was everywhere yesterday, online and on the air, even though the actual magazine itself isn't even out yet. That's pretty much par for the course in this digital age. Rolling Stone will lose some of those newsstand sales.

But Marketplace's Alisa Roth reports they'll still come out ahead.


Alisa Roth: If you want to see an old-fashioned, paper copy of the story, you'll have to wait until Friday, which is when it shows up on the newsstand.

But the story's been online all week. It showed up there even before Rolling Stone posted on its own site.

John Harrington follows publishing distribution and circulation. He says that means there probably won't be the kind of big jump in newsstand sales we used to see.

John Harrington: People, consumers, readers being able to access it online. That's where they're going to get look at that article. Few of them are going to go down and buy a copy at the newsstand.

He says newsstand sales aren't that big a deal; they only make up about 20 percent of revenue for magazines. But publishers do have to figure out how they're going to make money online. I mean, you can read this story about General McChrystal on Rolling Stone's website for free.

Harrington: One of the big questions I think all of them are looking at is what do you charge and how do you charge?

It's a question most publications are still struggling with.

Bo Sacks is publisher of Precision Media Group, which looks at the publishing industry. He says Rolling Stone didn't plan to put its story up online quite so soon. But it doesn't matter. What matters is all the attention it's getting.

Bo Sacks: It's on everybody's tongue right now, the Rolling Stone. You can't pay for that kind of coverage. If he took an advertising campaign, he couldn't afford what he already got.

And that kind of publicity might just drive sales.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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