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Shift to free secures NME its highest ever ABC

By | Published on Friday 12 February 2016


For years now, the publisher of the NME has insisted that we shouldn’t obsess too much about the ABC audited magazine circulation figures that come out from time to time.

Because, I mean, get with the moment granddad, in this inter-connected, multi-channel age, how many people pick up the paper edition of your media brand each week for a good old read isn’t what matters. Just look at our total audience reach across the web, mobile, YouTube and the tweets. And you’re obsessing about how many dead trees we distribute?

But oh look, “NME reports its highest ABC in 64 year history”, brags the publisher of the NME. “The iconic music brand today announces its first free-distribution ABC release of 307,217”. Ah, dead trees are back in fashion, are they?

So yes, Time Inc was yesterday keen to big up the ABC figure of its key music title, now that the whole thing has gone free, meaning it no longer languishes at the bottom of the music mag ABC chart, trying hard not to recall just how much those newsstand sales have slumped in the last 20 years. Because since last September’s relaunch as a freesheet, NME circulation is at an all time high. And not just because the guy at my local tube station dishes it out with the promise of “free music!”

Of course, everyone at the paid-for titles, when noting that freebie rivals are out-performing them in terms of distribution, will mumble “yeah, but how many of those mags are really handed out, picked up and read?”

But Time Inc is keen to stress just how strong its distribution network for the NME really is, ensuring all those 307,217 mags at the very least end up in someone’s bag. Dr Martens and Richer Sounds have been added as retail partners alongside Topman and HMV, it adds, and the title will be distributed at a plethora of festivals this summer.

And anyway, the advertisers are happy, and that’s what really matters when you’re publishing a music-centric entertainment-led content-orientated brand-engagement-platform. Ad firms Mediacom and Havas were both quoted in the NME’s latest ABC release, bigging up the title’s role as a seller of stuff.

Back at NME HQ, at least Time Inc exec Paul Cheal remembered it’s really all about total audience reach. “Not only are we now reaching more people every week in print but there has been a compound effect on our other platforms”, he said. “In December had 5.6 million unique users, up 25% year-on-year, and a combined social following of 2.1 million, an increase of 24% on the year”.

Good times then. “And while NME continues to evolve, it also continues to spark debate, divide opinions”, he added. “And – when you look at the array of talent on the covers – plays a key influential role in music, film and beyond”.

Don’t worry though, elsewhere in the music mag ABCs there was plenty of doom and gloom, as print circulations continue to decline. Though, Rocksound did see combined print and digital sales rise 3%, while print sales of Classic Rock were also up over the year ever so slightly too. So, good times indeed. And crazy times. Enjoy the times.