New Musical Express, the iconic British music magazine, has been publishing weekly ever since 1952. For decades, the magazine has been central to the voracious, fast-moving nature of UK music culture, and it has breathlessly chronicled and helped popularize genres like punk, new wave, grunge, shoegaze, Britpop, and early-’00s return-of-the-rock revivalism. And now, in a move that really signals the way music media has changed in recent years, it will cease to exist as a print magazine.
NME made the announcement this morning, attempting to brand it as an expansion of its “digital-first strategy,” the sort of phrase that makes media types’ blood run cold. NME will continue to exist as a website. And instead of a cover-star interview, it’ll now launch a weekly series called the Big Read. It’ll also run occasional print special issues.
In the magazine’s statement, Paul Cheal, an exec at Time Inc. UK, says, “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.”
The magazine has had a turbulent century. After merging with its historic rival Melody Maker in 2000, NME eventually saw a precipitous drop in its circulation. In 2015, the magazine became free, boosting its circulation. It wasn’t enough. In recent years, some magazines have managed to make a relatively graceful transition to an online-only presence; hopefully, NME will be one of them.