NME closes print edition after 66 years

Iconic UK music title NME is to cease publication in print after 66 years, the weekly title joining a long list of legendary magazine brands that now only exist online.

The NME.com website will remain, replacing the print edition’s cover star interview with a new weekly digital franchise, The Big Read. The NME will also continue to keep an occasional ‘special-edition’ presence in print, partly to cater for music stars’ appetite for appearing in print.

In 2015, the magazine ceased being a paid title after steep sales declines saw its circulation drop to just 15,000. It relaunched as an ad-funded, free title with a circulation of 300,000 in a last throw of the dice for the print edition.

However, this strategic gambit has clearly not paid off, with NME’s move to digital-only coming only weeks after Time Inc. UK was sold to private equity company Epiris in a deal thought to be worth £130m.

At the time, Chris Hanna, a partner at Epiris told the Guardian, “We intend to bring clarity and simplicity to (the business), to focus on maximising the potential of its high-quality portfolio.” If this latest move is any guide, Epiris is moving swiftly to maximise Time Inc. UK’s profits which were close to £30m last year.

Paul Cheal, Time Inc. UK group managing director, Music, comments, “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.

“At the same time, we have also faced increasing production costs and a very tough print advertising market. 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.”

Since launching 21 years ago, NME.COM has established a leading position in the music space and now attracts more than 3m UK unique users and more than 13m global unique users each month. On social , NME’s reach is more than 200m each month.

Commenting on the NME’s move, Owen Wyatt, Managing Director, Commercial at Shortlist Media (a pioneer of the ‘freemium’ publishing model) told WNIP, “Shortlist Media was launched as a free model and we have built the business around this. Switching to free in distress is a very different proposition, and unfortunately rarely works. Like other strong titles in the market, our print business is growing, driven by creative solutions. Titles not built for consumer demand will disappear but equally the strong magazines have potential for significant growth.”

Further reading:

Guardian: NME to close print edition after 66 years

Time Inc. UK: NME expands its digital-first strategy