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NME to relaunch as free title

By | Published on Monday 6 July 2015


So, after much speculation, music weekly NME is finally going free, following the lead of London culture mag Time Out in greatly upping its print circulation by going the free route, while hoping that a boost in ads and sponsorship, both online and in print, can make up for the loss of cover price income.

NME’s print circulation has, of course, been in freefall for years, making each set of ABC circulation figures gloomy reading. But at the same time the title has been more successful than most of its old school music mag rivals in building an online following, with an extensive mainly free-to-access digital offering.

As with Time Out, the all new free NME – with a 300,000 print run compared to the 15,000 copies currently sold – will be distributed on commuter routes in London. And as with some other free music mags, a number of retail partners will also give away copies. On campus distribution is also planned at universities and colleges around the UK.

Confirming the change, the boss of NME publisher Time Inc UK, Marcus Rich, told reporters: “This famous 63 year old brand was an early leader in digital and has been growing its global audience successfully for the best part of 20 years. It has been able to do so because music is such an important passion and now is the right time to invest in bringing NME to an even bigger community for our commercial partners”.

Focusing slightly less on the needs of those pesky “commercial partners”, the mag’s editor Mike Williams adds: “NME is already a major player and massive influencer in the music space, but with this transformation we’ll be bigger, stronger and more influential than ever before. Every media brand is on a journey into a digital future. That doesn’t mean leaving print behind, but it does mean that print has to change, so I’m incredibly excited by the role it will now play as part of the new NME”.

If Time Inc can make it work commercially, the move to free could breathe new life into NME, which has remained influential in indie circles despite its slumping print readership. The all new NME will launch on 18 Sep.