Rolling Stone: International standards with a local twist

The first South African edition of legendary music magazine Rolling Stone launched in November, featuring Hugh Masekela on the cover.

The choice followed a call for suggestions of who is considered the ultimate South African musical icon.

The magazine features images of Masekela taken by award-winning photographer Pieter Hugo, as well as interviews and features with artists ranging from Belville rockers Van Coke Kartel to US rapper Lil Wayne.

We spoke to the magazine’s editor-in-chief Miles Keylock.

Why launch a South African edition of Rolling Stone? What gap in the market is it filling?
South Africa has never had a music, current affairs and pop culture focused magazine with this kind of editorial mix. We’re trying to bring readers together in one space to start learning more about each other. As Jann S Wenner, who founded Rolling Stone in 1967 wrote in the first issue: “Rolling Stone is not just about music, but also about the things and attitudes that music embraces … To describe it any further would be difficult without sounding like bullshit, and bullshit is like gathering moss.”

The South African edition of legendary music magazine Rolling Stone recently launched. One of the highlights of the magazine is the excellent photography that illustrates its articles. Here is a sample of what readers can expect.

Is it not a risky time to be launching a magazine? The publishing industry is not that healthy at the moment, is it?
Perhaps. But we focus on what we need to do to make sure this happens. We are open to work together with anyone and everyone who shares our passion for Rolling Stone. If we continue to write stories that treat our readers with respect we’ll find an audience.

Tell me a bit about how you got involved in the magazine.
I got a phone call from 3iPublishing earlier this year and started the first of many conversations about imagining how we could work together to bring Rolling Stone into South Africa. Fast forward a few months and the first edition of Rolling Stone South Africa is a reality.

What is the relationship between the SA magazine and the US edition? How has the development of the SA edition been supported, and will you be sharing any content?
It’s amazing. The global Rolling Stone family is incredibly supportive. It’s an honour and privilege for us that they are prepared to share their expertise and resources with us to ensure that our South African edition is as good as it can possibly be. They continually give us feedback to help us learn and grow.

Tell me a bit about choosing Hugh Masekela for the cover of the first issue. What does this choice say about the brand, if anything?
Bra Hugh embodies the rock and roll spirit of Rolling Stone. He was the first choice. He’s an icon. Here’s a man who has lived his life on his own terms, experienced it’s highs and lows and found redemption that a life soundtracked in music must bring. He’s still giving it horns! It’s an honour to have him share some of his wild ride.

How do you go about choosing what will be covered and focused on?
We talk with writers, photographers, artists and readers. We look out for those artists with attitude. Those stories that haven’t been given the column space to be told. We’re spoiled for choice in South Africa. So many of our stories have not been told. So many of our artists need respect. Our readers too. Long form, in-depth features and interviews is a great way to start showing them respect.

And in terms of international vs local content?
We’re keeping it simple. 50% South African and 50% international content is the formula. We’ll only be syndicating global stories that have regional resonance with our readers.

Similarly, do you intend the magazine to have a specific audience?
Anyone who has a passion for music, current affairs and pop culture. You could be 16 or you could be 60. Age is a state of mind.

Tell me a bit about what people can find on the website, and it terms of Twitter etc. How will you encourage audiences to interact with the magazine, why is this important, and will the opinions highlighted in these forums inform any decisions you make?
The print publication will not be replicated on our website, Again, we’re taking Jann’s lead. His maxim is “print is something you dive into, the internet you surf”. We agree. To start with, the website is music driven with news stories, videos, photo galleries supplementing opinion pieces and albums, singles and movie reviews. We’ve got Twitter and Facebook channels. We take heed of tweets and posts. If someone tunes us into an amazing band or story that needs to be told we’ll be open-minded, we’ll consider it.

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Lisa Van Wyk
Lisa van Wyk is the arts editor, which somehow justifies her looking at pretty pictures all day, reading cool art and culture blogs and having the messiest desk in the office. She likes people who share her passion for art, music, food, wine, travel and all things Turkish. She can't ride a bike, but she can read ancient languages and totally understands the offside rule.

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