NME goes free, world shrugs
After 63 years on the news-stands, the NME becomes a free publication from September
In some quarters, the news that the NME is going free with its print publication from September is a big deal. For most of us, though, the writing was on the wall a long time ago. Indeed, I wrote about this scenario back in February when the rumour was first aired, though the publisher was quick then to rubbish that idea. Now, though, the game is up and the NME will be a freesheet jostling with a bunch of other freesheets for people’s paws and attention in a few months.
The statement about the move makes great play about brand, community and commercial partners, as well as an increase in circulation from the 15,000 at present – bet that figure will be lower come the next circulation figures – to 300,000 copies to be thrown around come the autumn.
But it’s obvious which of this particular troika of interests will have the most sway in the future. As a free publication, the NME will be relying on advertisers so if the commercial partners want to appeal to 15-25 year old males then that will dictate the content. While there are many 15 to 25 year old males who are into great music and insightful culture, you can be sure that the lowest common denominator will rule OK. Great news for The Libertines and all other proponents of meat and two veg stodgy indie rock.
The NME’s problem now is the same as it was in February and the same as it was a year ago and the same as it was five and 10 years ago: the content. Who would pay £2.50 for the NME as it currently stands week in and week out? To quote, er, myself, “as sure as night follows day, the NME will inevitably become a free publication and it will inevitably gain some new traction with that move. But in the long-term, the only thing that’s going to save the NME – or any other publication for that matter – is creating truly unique reasons for someone to visit, return and stick around.”
I may be wrong here – and I hope I am wrong here – but I can’t see the NME suddenly rocking out brilliant long read pieces in its free-for-all print publication. Their loss because in 2015 if you want stuff like that, you can find it again and again and again and again and again online. Like the headline puts it, the NME goes free, but most of the world will just shrug and move on.