I can picture a room full of editors working at a weekly or monthly magazine. Subscription rates are down due to online consumption and they’re searching for ways to be relevant and stir up some buzz. TIME did this with its “Are You Mom Enough?” cover last year, and this week, Rolling Stone decided to take it one step further.
In its August 1 issue, a picture of the living Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, takes up this prime real estate, with the magazine trying to make him look like a rock star (its eerily similar to other covers in the past, like these). The story itself examines how/why Tsarnaev went from being a seemingly regular kid to a terrorist, but the cover photo is clearly seen as insulting to the victims of the attack and everyone else who was affected.
If Rolling Stone’s goal was to grab attention, it was very successful. However, if its goal was to increase readership, well, it might regret the cover choice. Just take a look at a small sampling of the 6,000+ negative Facebook comments criticizing the magazine’s cover (below). For a magazine that has continuously slipped from mainstream attention, this bold move will be difficult to recover from.