March 13, 2018
Brit Music ’Zine NME Goes Digital-Only
New Musical Express broke ground in the entertainment media business for decades. Now, for the first time in 66 years, NME will no longer have a print publication. Everything is being pushed online, according to reports in CNN and other outlets. NME has been a stalwart in the entertainment media game for generations, but the publications ownership group, Time Inc., says the media industry is too tough to continue the print edition of the publication. There’s just not enough bang for their print advertising buck. Lower incomes and rising print costs finally reached a tipping point.
This shift is quite a change from just three years ago, when NME was a free weekly music magazine with a newly-minted web presence. Since then, though, web traffic has been significant and growing, while readership of the print piece has not been sufficient to draw enough ad revenue.
Economics of the Move
In a media statement, Paul Cheal, UK group managing director for Time Inc., said:
“NME is one of the most iconic brands in British media and our move to free print has helped to propel the brand to its biggest ever audience on NME.COM. The print re-invention has helped us to attract a range of cover stars that the previous paid-for magazine could only have dreamed of… Unfortunately, we have now reached a point where the free weekly magazine is no longer financially viable. It is in the digital space where effort and investment will focus to secure a strong future for this famous brand…”
So, in an interesting twist on the current trend in pop culture publishing, the print edition actually fed the web presence to the point where it was no longer necessary or viable. But, for British music fans who grew up in the golden era of the publication, in the ‘70s, losing NME is like losing a piece of their formative years. Fans have credited NME with changing the culture of Britain by both covering and pushing the country’s connection with rock and roll music.
It’s certainly true NME was there for some of rock’s most seminal moments: Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire at Finsbury Park, Led Zeppelin playing their first gig… trusted to break the news on what your favorite bands were doing, even if they were breaking up. Now, though, NME is looking ahead at enhancing its digital offerings and opening new streams of income, including a new audio music channel and content for digital platforms. If NME is successful, the publication could create a template for other struggling print ‘zines to follow.