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.
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 bestseller, but it also garnered accolades in the industry when it won a National Magazine Award.