Rolling Stone is making headlines today for relauching its website with complete access to its 43 year magazine archive — for a price. The music magazine has added all sorts of features online and plans to charge $3.99 a month for access.

This is all part of founder Jann Wenner’s plan to protect magazine content from being
cannibalized online. However, there’s one group left out of this new plan — Rolling Stone’s print subscribers. They’ll have to pony up for a monthly online subscription if they want to access the new content.

Rolling Stone’s website has long been in need of a revamp. And the publisher insists that readers who pay for a subscription will have access to never before seen content. Steven Schwartz, chief digital officer of Wenner Media, tells PaidContent:

“This is not a case of putting something that existed online behind a
paywall, because we’ve never offered access to our archives on the web
before. We’ll continue to offer a lot of
content for free. We have web editors who produce online-only content.
For the most part, we recognize the differences in the platforms. It’s
not pulling things back.”

In addition to the entire 43 year archive of magazine
content, All Access subscribers will receive the newest magazine in digital format and automaticallyget home delivery of the magazine. The site also now features a music player with album and song previews related to Rolling Stone content and music purchasing options. But current magazine subscribers get no special priviledges. If they want to start paying for online access, they are given the following message:

“Your current subscription will be upgraded and extended when you sign up for All Access.”

Print subscribers get no special privileges online. And they’ll have to pay more to access the new content. A print subscription currently goes for $19.95 per year. Online, readers can pay $3.95 a month, or opt for an annual all access
pass ($2.50 per month/$29.99 per year). A two-year online
subscription costs $1.87 per month/$22.44 per year.

Despite its previously slim online presence, Rolling Stone has been doing well in recent years. Its print circulation is at a record 1.5 million, up from 1.3 million in 2000. But those readers should be rewarded instead of being asked to give more money to the publication.

If Rolling Stone wants to make it online, it needs to win over new readers. That doesn’t mean current subscribers should be left by the wayside. At least until their subscriptions run out, it wouldn’t have been too much to offer current readers online access. Especially when you consider that part of the fee is to access digital content that they currently receive in print.