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Goodbye NME: The impact of digital publishing

09/03/2018

This week NME announced the closure of its weekly print magazine after 66 years as part of its move to digital publishing only. NME will have some fellow magazine buddies though, as other British titles – such as Look, Glamour, Newsweek and Loaded – have also too made the jump to the world of digital publishing.

Here at Cherish, we certainly feel a twinge of sadness saying goodbye to NME magazine. It’s like bidding farewell to an old friend with heavy doses of nostalgia, bringing back memories of packed venues to witness upcoming music artists perform their hearts out.

The first cover: 7 March 1952

NME (also known in full as New Music Express) has been a huge part of British youth culture since its launch in 1952, launching the careers of iconic bands and artists as well as many well-known music journalists in the UK. It is a British institution.

In its heyday – during the 1970s – NME was the best-selling music newspaper in the country after becoming synonymous with the punk movement. It grew a cult-like following due to the writings of Julie Burchill, Paul Morley and Tony Parsons, who moved against the status quo reporting on the ‘underworld’ of UK music with an attitude many had never seen in print before.

The magazine’s newspaper format gradually evolved throughout the 1980s and 1990s, officially changing to magazine format in 1998. Its popularity was still in a swell as the UK music scene enjoyed a boost with the rise of Britpop and indie. NME was hugely influential, making or breaking careers.

Following the birth of the internet the publisher followed suit and launched NME.com in 1996, garnering a massive readership. It was the world’s largest specialist music site, with 7 million unique monthly browsers. The demand for digital was very clear from the off-set.

In the noughties, new music discovery quickly moved online and the market became competitive. Blogs like the Line of Best Fit, Pitchfork, Noisey and The 405 blew-up – becoming the new voice of influence. Streaming services like Spotify offered an easy way to discover new tunes tailored to personal taste – due to Artificial Intelligence and other clever technology advancements– paired with the ability to listen instantly. NME was gradually drowned out.

While the power of print depleted, in recent years NME had also lost a great deal of the spirit of its former years. There were rumblings from the mag’s trust-hardy fans and the music industry that the magazine was feeling less like a trend setter and more of a crowd follower. The magazines decision to go free in 2015 may have boosted its circulation (from 15,000 to 300,000), but the content of the magazine drastically changed to become more mainstream. This was likely ruled by the advertising kings who tightly held onto the pennies that kept the magazine in print.

Other free print music titles that are surviving – DIY and Loud & Quiet – offer what NME lost – relevance. Their approval or dismissal continues to mean something to the industry. Renowned British music journalist Alexis Petridis said this week NME became an ‘irrelevant shadow of its former self’, a sentiment we agree with. In our view, it had lost its purpose and ultimately, lost its cult-like following.

We wish NME the best of luck with its digital publishing pursuits. Hopefully the digital edition can rise from the ashes to once again do what made it great in the beginning. Make big – and relevant – noise about new music and culture.

The final cover (for now): Stefflon Don, 9 March 2018

 

Written by Sara French

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