Indie music bible the NME is to be given away free after circulation for the 63 year-old title slumped to below 15,000 paid copies.
Owners Time Inc UK said more than 300,000 copies will be distributed nationally through stations, universities and retail partners.
The NME, the last of the old-school music weekly papers, enjoyed a circulation peak of 300,000 in the late 70s.
Sales of the magazine, which helped launch the careers of bands including The Smiths and Oasis, crashed over the last decade with fans migrating to alternative digital sources of music news.
The first free NME will be distributed on September 18. Time Inc UK called the move “the latest stage in its evolution as an audience-first global media business” alongside its NME.COM website.
Music will be downgraded in the new offering, which will be a “gateway into a wider conversation around film, fashion, television, politics, gaming and technology.”
NME will “dramatically increase its content output and range, with new original as well as curated content appearing across all platforms, including print,” the publishers said.” Other highlights will include an expansion in “live events, more video franchises and greater engagement with users on new social platforms. NME, which has a partnership with the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, will expand its “global footprint.”
Marcus Rich, CEO of Time Inc. UK said: “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.”
Mike Williams, editor of NME, said: “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. The future is an exciting place, and NME just kicked the door down.”
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However there will be fears that turning NME into a general “lifestyle” publication will dilute its influence further. Guitar-based indie rock, which has been the lifeblood of the magazine, is in decline and the brand has struggled to uncover stars with mass appeal in recent years.
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