Rolling Stone 'Boston Bomber' Issue Is a Hit on Newsstands

Rolling Stone

Despite boycotts and retailers pulling the issue from shelves, controversy doesn't seem to have hurt sales.

Rolling Stone's “Boston Bomber” issue got a rash of bad publicity, and retailers like CVS and Stop & Stop pulled it from shelves after a “Boycott Rolling Stone” campaign gained steam on Facebook. But the controversy doesn't seem to have hurt newsstand sales.

Retail sales of the issue jumped 102 percent over average per-issue sales for the past year, according to Magazine Information Network. Figures are based on point-of-sale data from 1,420 retailers from July 19 to July 29. Among those retailers, 13,232 copies were sold, more than double the magazine's average sales for the prior year.

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Critics accused Rolling Stone of being insensitive and glorifying a notorious criminal when it put Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's photo on the cover. The photo was actually a self-portrait by Tsarnaev and had previously appeared on the cover of the May 5 edition of The New York Times, to considerably less criticism.

The boycott alone wouldn't have had a big impact on the bottom line anyway, given that only 5 percent of Rolling Stone’s total circulation is sold at retail. But the early sales estimates just go to show that once again, controversy can be a major selling point. Take the magazine’s 1970 cover featuring notorious murderer Charles Manson: Not only was it a best-seller, it also garnered accolades in the industry when it won a National Magazine Award.