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IT's cool enough for Rolling Stone

December 10, 1998
Web posted at: 11:10 AM EST

by David Orenstein

(IDG) -- Where in modern culture does information about technology fit? It's recently squeezed its way into the haute culture of The New York Times and soon will be part of the hot culture of Rolling Stone magazine.

Beginning with the Jan. 21 issue, the biweekly New York-based Rolling Stone, published by Wenner Media, will be rolling out a regular two-page section devoted to the cultural impact of digital technology. The section was partly inspired by Circuits, The New York Times Co.'s weekly personal-technology section in the Times, which made its debut in February.

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"Technology now is part of pop culture," said Penry Price, Rolling Stone's director of technology advertising. "It is the right time for us to cover it." More than two-thirds of Rolling Stone's 1.25 million readers are 18 to 34 years old. Members of that tech-savvy group have made cellular phones, pagers and personal digital assistants fixtures of their lives, Price said. They have flocked to the Web for lifestyle information and to sample and buy music.

Rolling Stone, which already has a sophisticated Web site, may expand the section to four or five pages if it takes off, said Price, who recently attended Comdex to see what technology hits Rolling Stone should cover.

The same trend that now compels Rolling Stone to consider running stories about 3Com Corp.'s handheld device within the same pages that cover grunge rockers Seven Mary Three had compelled the Times to launch Circuits. The section covers "the impact on everyday life of current technology," said Lisa Carparelli, a Times spokeswoman.

The basics

The 12-page Nov. 26 Circuits had stories about finding people and being found on the Internet, the computerization of toy train sets and how to tell vaporware from a real product at Comdex. Regular features include explanations of how technology works.

Three editors and three reporters work full-time on Circuits, Carparelli said.

Advertisers are embracing the idea of technology as popular culture. Rolling Stone has lined up IBM, Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. to join a regiment of companies such as Sony Corporation of America and Philips Electronics N.V., all of which straddle consumer electronics and business computing.

Ellen Oppenheim, a senior vice president at the New York office of ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding, said coverage of technology culture is growing, finding an audience and support from advertisers. "If you're not familiar with the current technology, you are assumed to be behind the times," she said.

Wired Digital Inc.'s print magazine Wired, a pioneer in the coverage of Internet culture in 1994, now faces stiff competition but still shows circulation gains, Oppenheim noted.

The ease of forming communities of interest on the Internet has in turn increased the interest of various communities in technology, Oppenheim said.

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