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Rolling Stone magazine goes down a size

Rolling Stone magazine unveiled plans on Monday for a major design overhaul, scaling down its signature large-format pages to a standard magazine size in a bid to bolster advertising and sagging newsstand sales.

The U.S. pop culture magazine will end the oversized look that for more than 30 years has distinguished it from rival publications starting with an issue set to hit newsstands on October 17.

“It feels to me just like a natural step for us to take,” said Will Dana, managing editor at Rolling Stone. “It’s always exciting to shake things up a bit and to grow and to do things differently.”

Officials with Wenner Media, the magazine’s publisher, said Rolling Stone’s circulation has grown to an all-time high of nearly 1.5 million.

But single-copy sales on news racks slumped to 115,644 for the first six months of 2008, down from 119,735 for the same period in 2007, the company said.

“We’ve been challenged at the newsstand recently, which is an industry-wide trend, and the decline pretty much mirrors where we are vis-a-vis our competitors,” Dana said.

The company expects the new format will boost single-copy sales because in the past the magazine’s size has proved somewhat unwieldy for retailers to prominently display.

With the new format, the magazine’s pages will be glued together instead of stapled, making it easier to include advertising supplements, said Beth Jacobson, a spokeswoman for Rolling Stone.

The redesign also will allow publishers to add 16 to 20 more pages of editorial content and to more easily run full-page ads, Wenner Media spokesman Mark Neschis said.

One of the few major U.S. magazines of the same size as the current Rolling Stone is the sports-oriented publication ESPN, an offshoot of the cable network, officials from Wenner said.

Rolling Stone began in 1967 in San Francisco, and the magazine is mainly dedicated to music and pop culture.

Appearing on its cover has long been coveted by musicians around the world, and was even the subject of a hit song, “The Cover of The Rolling Stone,” by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show.

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