Was NME’s decision last week to close its weekly print edition worthy of such an outpouring of grief and soul-searching?
It was headline news across the media. The obituaries were long and heavy-hearted. Columnists mused over what NME had meant to them, what their favourite covers were, and how much better the title had been in the old days. One article in the Guardian was headlined: 'Its soul was lost somewhere': inside the demise of NME.
But all last week’s decision confirmed was that NME does not have a future as a free circulation print title. Nothing more, nothing less.
In its paid-for print guise, the title had been haemorrhaging circulation for years. From its high-water mark of 306k in 1964, the circulation had shrivelled to 16k in 2015. At this point, Time Inc converted it to a free title and upped its print run to 300k. This gave the print edition a couple more years’ grace but a niche title was always going to struggle with a mass market model, especially given the downward pressures on advertising.
It was already clear in 2015 that its future was digital, and the recent shuttering of the weekly print edition simply confirmed that. The publishers point to 3m monthly UK uniques (13m globally) and a monthly reach of 200m on social media; not figures to be sniffed at.
With new audio services and an enhanced ticketing and membership offer and with virtually limitless potential for audio, video, pics and user generated content, it’s easy to imagine a bright future for the music brand.
NME might no longer have the edgy presence of its 60s and 70s self, but its digital footprint still represents a solid base for future growth.