As Ads Shrink, Is Billboard Becoming Rolling Stone?

image from www.amaxtalent.com The fate of Billboard Magazine is tied to the same downward forces as the recorded music industry. Shrinking major labels buy less advertising, the lifeblood of the trade magazine. We've seen hints of how Billboard may try to stop the bleeding for months, but a major indicator came last week with the makeover of sister publication The Hollywood Reporter.

A Shift To High-End Hyrbrid Fanzine

Like Billboard, the film industry focused Reporter has provided favorable coverage of the films and studios that pay their bills. But since they're no longer a reliable source of revenue, the magazine is retooling to serve the advertisers of fashion, consumer electronics, liquor and other high end products. That means, as the savvy bloggers who have become the trade's biggest competitors know, serving fans, as well as, the industry.

To remake The Reporter, Janice Min has been hired away from tabloid weekly US. She will take the magazine from daily to weekly and include a mix of analysis, features and glitzy photo spreads alongside a redesigned web site focusing on breaking news. “We’re not going to be a product that purely strokes the industry because the industry won’t respect that,” Charles Beckman, a former top executive with Condé Nast who now runs E5 told the New York Times.

Over at Billboard, as revenues have fallen so has coverage of jazz, new age, classical and other genres less likely to buy ads in the publication. Several tech savvy bloggers have been added; and the free Billboard.com has become more fan oriented with most industry content kept behind a paywall at Billboard.biz.  But changes in the print version have been slower in coming. 

Rumors have been flying for months that a much bigger shift is imminent.  The makeover of The Hollywood Reporter provides the clearest glimpse yet of how a remade Billboard may look.  But the jury is out on whether a transition from trade publication to high-end hybird fanzine can save either magazine.

Would you subscribe to the new Billboard? Do you subscribe to it now?

Share on:


  1. Technically, a “fanzine” is produced BY fans. Some more polished periodicals like the late “No Depression” have fanzine roots, but I see no chance that Billboard is going to change into anything resembling a fanzine.
    I don’t know anyone who kept reading Rolling Stone regularly after the big consumer companies became its leading advertisers. I do miss the newsprint-era Rolling Stone. But I’m old.
    On the Hollywood Reporter hiring help from “Us” magazine: jeez, I glance at “Us” in the doctor’s office. “Us” makes “People” look like “The New Yorker.” “Us” is a magazine for people who really don’t read.

  2. I’d subscribe to a thought-provoking publication about the music industry. Or one that had lots of info that I needed and was offered at an affordable price. The print Billboard was never a must read for me. I do like what I read at billboard.biz, though I don’t have a subscription and can’t access whatever is behind a paywall.
    I subscribed to Pollstar when I could get the online version for about $200 a year. Now they only offer online with print so it’s about $400 or $500 a year (I can’t remember) and that’s beyond my budget.

  3. I love how the mighty fall. Fanzines are produced by fans and from reading the latest numbers of Billboard’s circulation it seems they don’t have any.

  4. It’s a shame. As a long-time reader (and subscriber) of Billboard, I’ve watched it slowly morph from a respected industry trade paper to a comic-book-style, gossip-oriented fan site geared toward 13 year old girls. The flashy colors, obnoxious graphics and inane “news” stories make their .com site a navigational nightmare. The print magazine hasn’t done much better (not that I really need it – an internet subscription automatically gives you the print magazine, mostly useless since the US mail delivers it a week or so after all the content is available online). The .biz site isn’t much better; for weeks they will leave a full-page click-thru advertisement pop-up on the site that overtakes the screen with *every single click*.
    Seems the changes are necessary for them to survive, but it’s no less frustrating and sad. Where once I had a respectable place to get music news, now I see articles about “summer’s best beach bodies”. Pathetic.

Comments are closed.