Rolling Stone president on magazine's future, legacy and controversies

CBS News

Major changes are ahead for Rolling Stone magazine as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. Since its start, the iconic publication has served as a voice for rock 'n' roll and is known for pushing the envelope. Now, the magazine is up for sale.

The publication has packed rock 'n' roll, pop culture, politics, sex and much more into every issue, but shifts in demographics and distribution has convinced the magazine's founder that the times are a changin'.

CBS News' Bianna Golodryga sat down with the founder's son, president and COO Gus Wenner, who shared his vision for the magazine his father co-founded five decades ago.

"I think it was a combination of kind of being born to be a journalist and an editor and being just at the right place at the right time and falling in love with music," Wenner said of his father's ability to touch on the pulse of the nation when his father founded the magazine.

Gus says it was a big moment when his father Jann asked him to help run Rolling Stone, which he launched in 1967. For decades the magazine served as the Holy Grail for musicians and their fans.

It was a cultural reference in hit movies like "Almost Famous." Now, the iconic publication is undergoing massive change.

"Rolling Stone magazine is up for sale. Is that a bitter sweet moment for you?" Golodryga asked.

"No, it's purely sweet. There is an amazing opportunity with this brand and the tides of publishing are changing and we must change to seize that opportunity," Wenner said.

Rolling Stone has extended far beyond entertainment covering everything from religious leaders to one of the world's most wanted drug lords.

In January of last year, Rolling Stone caught flack for publishing an account of actor Sean Penn's meeting with notorious Mexican drug lord El Chapo.

Addressing the criticism, Wenner said, "I think it was a fascinating story and it captured the world. I mean, it was the biggest news story in the world when we published it. It was captivating."

That wasn't the first source of controversy for the magazine. In 2014, Rolling Stone was sued over an article about an alleged rape case at University of Virginia that proved to be false.

"Well, I mean, in 50 years of ambitious award-winning journalism, we've had one mistake," Wenner said. "A mistake we've taken very seriously and our commitment to, you know, the standards that we've always upheld."

"Would the magazine still be up for sale had that story not been published?" Golodryga asked.

"Without a doubt," he responded.  

On what we can expect in the next decade from the magazine, Wenner said, "We have been aggressive, we will continue to be more aggressive about growing our online footprint. In my mind that is the massive opportunity and we can be among the best content video creators there are."

Wenner says that with a new push for digital content, the magazine will go from a bi-weekly to a monthly publication. A buyer has not been named yet, and while both Gus and Jann Wenner have stated their desires to stay with the magazine, no final decision has been made.