Penske Media Completes Acquisition of Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone is finally set to debut its homegrown music charts — with designs to unseat Billboard.

Billboard‘s charts and album/song rankings are — and have long been — used by the majority of music professionals, reporters, and fans.  But they’re also the source of increasing ire from artists and executives alike, particularly over seemingly arbitrary and shifting rules.

Rolling Stone aims to exploit that opportunity.  The magazine, which has been published monthly since 1967, has long traversed music, film, television, politics, and pop culture.  Now, with real-time information in high demand, Rolling Stone will increase its focus on music and split-second chart results.

Specifically, these interactive charts will be published on Rolling Stone’s website and will be curated by Alpha Data (formerly BuzzAngle), which will be positioned against Billboard‘s stats partner Nielsen Music.  Out of the gate, Rolling Stone is touting instantaneous access and constant updating of charts for artists, albums, and songs.

Of course, how many individuals are actually interested in that remains to be seen.

A multitude of details pertaining to the actual processes behind Rolling Stone‘s charts can be viewed on the magazine’s site; questions and comments can be forwarded to a full-time RS Chart team.  These points suggest that Rolling Stone is taking the endeavor seriously — both in terms of planning and allocated resources.

The “rolling out” of the charts was previously delayed by about two months; the delay’s reasons weren’t released publicly, but rumors pointed to serious problems getting approvals to use data feeds from major DSPs like Apple Music.  Disagreements over rankings between paid and non-paid streams may have also caused the unforeseen delays, with labels potentially unhappy with free-stream weightings.

Several chart types will be published weekly (but updated daily, once again), including: The Rolling Stone Top 100 Songs, Top 200 Albums, Artists 500, Breakthrough 25, and Trending 25, with the latter tracking relative popularity increases in songs that are less than 12 months old.

Rolling Stone Charts is undoubtedly ambitious, but it’s unclear how the venture will fare. Billboard‘s methodology of converting streams into albums has been heavily criticized, though its math has also been mirrored across endless markets worldwide.  Beyond that, Billboard enjoys immense branding, with more than 100 years of history making it a default chart reference.

Whether Rolling Stone, which is rarely associated with charts, can seriously challenge that is hard to say.