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Time Inc is considering a free distribution future for NME

By | Published on Thursday 19 February 2015


So, we know that everyone was jumping the gun somewhat by declaring that the NME would go free as soon as next month, however certain Vice’s newsagent might have been about such matters, but what about in the longer term? Might we see, later this year say, the NME weekly magazine go free, you know, Time Out-style (yeah, I’m bored of that too).

Well, following all the online chatter earlier this week about the NME becoming a free read, it’s emerged that publisher Time Inc UK has indeed been considering its options regarding the music magazine’s future, floating the idea of relaunching it as a free title.

According to The Guardian, NME staff were told this week that some key partners have been sounded out about the proposal, including retailers whose stores might form part of a distribution network, which might include Topshop and Urban Outfitters. What isn’t clear is, if they did go that route, how quickly the switch to free could occur.

NME’s print circulation has, of course, slumped in recent years, and continues to do so, making each batch of ABC circulation figures a depressing read. Though online, NME is arguably a leader, certainly when it comes to traditional music media brands, and a freely distributed version of the magazine might provide better promotion for the online assets, while unlocking some ad revenue not currently available with print sales of 13,995.

Not that it’s especially easy to make freebie music magazines profitable, though with existing online advertising and sponsorship revenues, a free NME might be a way of spinning some good news around the print element, which in commercial terms is now just a one slice of the pie, but which to the outside world is still seen as the flagship.

NME isn’t the only Time Inc magazine under review. With the US-based Time publishing company spun off from former parent company Time Warner last year (resulting in it’s UK division rebranding from IPC to Time), the future of many of the firm’s brands are now being considered. And while there could be some big changes ahead, insiders seem to think NME is one of the more secure brands at the company.