NME: The Life and History of the Music Publication

NME, established in 1952, is the world’s longest standing music publication. However, March 2018 saw the end of NME’s magazine, terminating the print edition to focus on the website. Over the years, the print industry has experienced a vast decline due to the rise of the internet and handheld devices. NME is the most recent casualty and Business Rescue Expert, a leading insolvency practitioner in the UK, are analysing why NME is ceasing print publications and what it means for the future of the industry.

NME changed the face of music and, throughout its time, has seen music royalty grace the pages. The magazine initially launched to appeal to men in their late teens and twenties. However, as such a diverse magazine, their readership grew to include women, becoming 63% male and 37% female.

At the peak of their popularity, NME generated a staggering £1 million per week in sales revenue, coupled with 400,000 subscribers. The brand boasted a solid customer base and launched their website in 1996 to cover more topical areas. However, as the headlines stated ‘mobile to overtake fixed internet access in 2014’, NME recorded a dip in sales. Today, more than 69% of consumers spend their media time on their smartphone, which has directly contributed to the decline in the print industry. In 2015, NME announced their subscribers had dropped to a record low of 15,000.

In response to the reports, measures were put in place to offer NME temporary relief. In September 2015, NME became a free publication, with the brand relying on advertising revenue over sales. Subsequently, the number of subscribers jumped to 300,000, but it was not enough to last in the digital age. The private equity firm which acquired NME recently announced they were ceasing print publications, focusing on the online platform.

Changes to the print industry

Changes to the print industry have come about as more readers use smartphones to access news. Stories can unfold in real time for those using mobiles and access the likes of Twitter. Similarly, broadcasters boast apps to send out notifications to phones when a breaking news story occurs. Newspapers and magazines already printed cannot compete with the internet today. Most news apps are also free, particularly benefit younger audiences who are said to have less disposable income.

To survive in this industry, many news outlets are adapting to the changes through methods such as:

  • Adding QR codes to magazines/newspapers, taking the viewer to a particular webpage or app
  • Offer discounts/vouchers exclusive to the magazine
  • Produce highly-valuable and sought after rich content, not available online

Funding for online publications

Primarily, funding for news websites and the like are obtained through advertising. Funding can take a variety of formats and methods, but this is the most common. If you have ever been reading a particular article and have had your reading interrupted by ads, that is due to advertising revenue. Similarly, paywalls are an excellent source of funding – particularly for news outlets. Typically, this is a one-off payment over a certain length of time.

Another form of funding for online publications is that of data. For example, selling the information you provide while answering a survey to access the article can help fund the platform. Lastly, competitions are another source of income, particularly, if readers have to text a premium rate line to be in with a chance of winning a certain amount of money.

All things considered, the continued digital advances will directly impact the success of print publications. It’s no longer viable to run a magazine or newspaper the same way as 20 years ago. Those who adapt to the changes in the market will survive.

Elliot Preece
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