Rolling Stone: The Boston Bomber and Great Advertising

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The Boston bomber’s senior picture – and it does look like a high school senior picture – covering the most recent issue of Rolling Stone Magazine has proven provocative, to say the least. Several retailers have refused to place the issue on their shelves. A lot of people are mad. I’m pretty mad. But let’s take a step outside the box, use that freshman rhetoric, and analyze what’s really happening here. Is Rolling Stone an evil publication?


Are they glorifying  murder on a public stage? Yes. Are they giving another option to young, pathetic lunatics hiding in their rooms, planning a less-than-admirable way to get their “beautiful” mugshot seen by everyone? Yes. Should they instead be glorifying the national outreach that rushed to help victims of the attack? Yes.  Are they selling magazines?


I don’t know about the reader, but the last time I bought a magazine at a newsstand was when I was about to board a plane to spend a month in Europe. Dropping five dollars on something that would end up rotting in my backpack only made sense because I could rationalize not needing American money anymore. Would I regularly buy one on the way to work? Hell no.

In the exact same way that Time got people’s attention by putting a nose-less woman on their cover, Rolling Stone is enticing people to stop and look. It’s tough times for the magazine industry, so putting a murderer’s face on the cover of your publication is a great marketing move – albeit a seemingly horrible PR one. People who don’t subscribe to Rolling Stone rush to own a “piece of history” like the “scandalous” cover photo. Plus, good luck not hearing about it in the news for the next three weeks.

Rolling Stone featuring the Boston bomber’s face on the cover of their magazine seems like a far cry from the typical talent they display (although, they have featured Snooki…). But it’s really not. It’s all been about selling copies. People don’t want to buy magazines because of heroes anymore. They’d rather read about a new breed of lazy and demented celebrities. They’d rather learn about villains.

(Seriously, do you think he has that picture in wallet sizes? All I have is this one of him in front of a Camaro, but I know it’s not his car.)