Changes are afoot at Britain’s second–biggest selling weekly music paper:
The NME, IPC’s weekly music title, is undergoing a redesign this week and introducing a host of new elements.
Before I saddle up the horse and gallop excitedly to the local newsstand, let’s look a little more closely at what they’re offering:
The changes are the result of “extensive reader research”.
Right. You know what this means, don’t you? Yep, they’ve read the comments on NME.com for a week or so. “Extensive reader research” can be undertaken to mean exactly what you want it to mean – social science is an imprecise science and can lack a certain rigour, if you like – and when the editor insists that he views the average reader as a 15-year-old in the provinces, I wouldn’t listen to a word those readers said, either, especially if an expensive re-design depended upon the results.
There will be “more humorous editorial”. Maybe they’re planning to reintroduce the Thrills page, a feature so often lacking in humour that in its death throes in 2000 the strap line “it’s meant to be funny” was added. Or that there will be longer (slightly longer, mind, I’m not calling for the return of review essays, but 200 words isn’t a chore for reader or writer) to develop gags? Or the singles will be reviewed by one person per week? Or – and this would really be something – that they get better writers? No, didn’t think so.
“Innovations include a “Your photos” section to run alongside the letters page”. What is this? A weekly freesheet's clubbing section (at least those rags are honest that you get what you pay for)? Maybe this is the NME’s response to our celebrity-saturated culture in which most people crave fame. Well, they should realise that their demographic is anti the mass hysteria of Pop Idol and its derivatives. “Indie” might not necessarily mean “independent” or “sells bugger all records” these days, but the spirit of the venture, the thrill of the chase, the belief in the outsider are all part of its demographics’ self-imposed underdog status.
We can expect “a Weekly Planner catering for younger readers.” This move strikes me as being for kids so young that the covermounts might as well be lollipops and felt tip pens.
“Stuff We Love that extends coverage to fashion, gadgets and brand merchandise”. That sound you hear is the death knell of the magazine. The further they get away from their subject – music – the less reliable they become. Covering fashion and gadgets is not an economic necessity for the NME in the way that footballers, and soap operas and its stars, for example, became necessary add-ons to the teen and pre-teen magazine market.
What they are doing with fashion in what is a magazine read predominantly by males who mainly dress according to the dictates of the band or scene they like (or – newsflash! – jeans and a t-shirt, probably a band t-shirt at that) only their “research” can tell us. The gadgets section, that male-magazine staple, makes more sense to its readers, perhaps, but ties in perfectly to what this whole redesign is all about: it’s moving the magazine closer to the website.
The readers' photos (it’s like a networking site!), the readers’ reviews (it’s like a blog!), the humourous editorial (it’s irreverent! like the world wide web!), the staff profiles (it’s interweb-tastic!): Nme.com has become the tail that wags the NME-magazine dog.
If I can give you one piece of advice, guys, is seeing as “Readers will also now have album reviews published” will you print them in the funny pages? I’d like to know which ones are which. Ta.