NME moves online as internet trumps print

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In early 2018, the world’s most famous and longest-standing music publication, NME, announced their decision to cease print. In the age of digital, magazines are losing their footing with consumers who can access news at any time and any place on their device. After launching in 1952, even NME couldn’t withstand the change in the market, focusing solely on online.

Over the past decade, the print industry has faced significant threats due to the rise in the internet and, subsequently, smartphones. NME is only the most recent victim, with the likes of Newsweek also moving online after producing the magazine for an astonishing 79 years. Business Rescue Expert, leading UK insolvency practitioners, are discussing what NME terminating print spells for the future of the industry.

The history of NME

NME is attributed with changing the face of the music industry, making it more accessible for fans, with music royalty gracing every page of the magazine. The print publication was, in fact, launched initially for young men, between their late teens and early twenties. However, as they increased in popularity, so did their readership, changing to 63 per cent male and 37 per cent female.

During the boom of the print industry, NME experienced mass popularity. In their peak periods, the magazine managed to turn a profit of £1 million in sales revenue each week, boosting their subscribers to 400,000 at its highest. In 1996, they jumped on the beginnings of the internet, launching their website to cover more topical areas within the industry. However, this signified the beginning of the end for many print magazines and papers. The rise in the smartphone has significantly contributed to the decline in readers picking up magazines, with NME announcing their subscribers had dropped to 150,000 in 2015. 

NME, subsequently, adapted to the change and became an entirely free publication in late 2015. Rather than rely on sales profits, they placed their focus on advertising revenue. In doing so, their subscribers increased to 300,000. It wasn’t to last as, due to the rise in apps and websites, the private equity firm that had acquired NME made the tough decision to move online, stating the magazine is no longer financially viable.

The decline in the print industry

The rise of the internet and smartphone users has led to substantial changes within the print world. According to recent surveys, apps account for 89% of mobile media time, with the other 11% spent on websites. As such, the ability to access news through an app has significantly reduced the need to, quite literally, buy papers and magazines. These apps also provide notifications should a breaking news story occur. The accessibility of news app means print cannot compete with stories in ‘real time’. Most importantly, a significant number of apps are free as we, reportedly, have less disposable income. Millennials are a primary target for many brands, and they have grown up in a world heavily reliant on digital.

The closure of Glamour in 2017 was another huge blow to the print industry. The tenth best-selling UK magazine, as ranked by ABC, made the decision to move online. In a tale eerily similar to NME, Glamour pioneered their industry, fashion, with the handbag-sized edition, debuting with a readership of 451,486. Their numbers grew to 620,391 in 2004, but steadily declined over the years. With print advertising already suffering and a loss of £2.5 million per year, Glamour made the bold move before NME. 

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the shift towards digital has been evident since 2010. The top 100 UK print editions have faced a 42% loss in readers buying and subscribing, from 2010 to 2017. To put it into numbers, advertising in magazines and newspapers fell from £512 million in 2010, to just below £250 million in 2017. 

To counteract the decline in the print industry, magazines and papers will have to incorporate modern technology into their editions. They must offer unique opportunities, unseen with online platforms. For example:

  • Include QR codes on specific pages, taking your reader to an individual webpage offering exclusive discounts
  • Add more offers/deals to the pages, unavailable on the website
  • Place more time in creating rich and highly shareable content, but not made available on any online platform
  • Build a brand beyond your print publication, utilising apps such as Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter

Funding for online platforms

While there is significant competition online for readers, there are a variety of funding methods for the likes of NME. Of course, advertising is the most common of funding for online platforms. Ads featured in articles or at the beginning of video content are the most prominent. Likewise, if you have ever read an article and stopped halfway through due to an advert, this is a form of advertising revenue. Advertising revenue is the most common, as websites cannot turn a profit through sales. Many online publications have also used paywalls to aid in funding. However, in this day and age, where news is free on Twitter and other apps, online platforms may struggle to gain readers when advertising paywalls.

Data collection is another significant form of funding. For example, answering a survey before gaining access to a particular article. Alternatively, the likes of The Times ask you to register an account before viewing their content, thus gaining your personal details. Competitions can also generate profits for companies, even those offering substantial prizes for the winner. Typically, those entering will be asked to text into a premium rate line, enabling the site to make their money back. 

Unfortunately, NME’s recent announcement only demonstrates the changes the print industry is facing, and will continue to face as apps and websites replace magazines. However, there is the opportunity to survive, but magazines must tech trends to create content different to what is already available.

Eamonn Wall, Managing Director, Business Rescue Expert
Image Credit: Depositphotos