Britain’s oldest weekly magazine has undergone a recent facelift, but what are the results? So far uninspiring.
Coffee table-chic won’t work
Much to the despair of accountants and magazine owners everywhere, music is very rarely something you can delve in and out of easily. Keeping your ‘finger on the pulse’ is much more time consuming.
Unfortunately the new layout of NME appears to be geared towards the casual enquirer rather than the committed music fan. In-depth features have been banished to the rear (more on this later) whilst the nauseating ‘Letters’ page now reigns supreme at the front of the magazine alongside a multitude of news stories. Amongst the myriad of online music outlets and social media overload, is a print magazine really going to attract back readers with already out-of-date news ?
Cheers for messing up the Radar section
NME will always have critics. But one thing they undoubtedly perfected in recent years was their dedicated section on breaking bands. Matt Wilkinson, the New Music Editor, turned these few pages into a must read if you cared about catching the next generation of arena headliners whilst they were still playing on the toilet circuit.
The set menu of a band profile, live review, news piece, guest columnist and Buzz section provided structure and an accessible in-road to the confusing world of new acts. Now…not so much. Refinement seems to have been set aside for cramming in as many bands as possible in the hope that their friends and family will buy the magazine that week.
Play to your strengths
As previously mentioned, NME’s world-renowned features have been removed from centre stage and are now tucked away towards the back pages. If there’s one thing the offline magazine had in it’s favour, it was the space it afforded to in-depth and enlightening pieces on the great and the good of the music world. Hiding these behind 50 pages of adverts and throwaway content feels like giving up.
And it’s a mistake. Very few online outlets carry the weight of authority or possess writers with the skill to conjure up 3,000 word treatises on the big issues in music. It’s like playing you’re star striker in goals.
Old interviews are irrelevant
The ‘This Week In…’ section was insufferable enough prior to the rebrand. Now it appears editorial policy to print verbatim pieces from vintage issues every week. Not only does this help fuel the argument that music was better in the past (whenever this imagined period of musical excellence was), but old features are nothing but dead words. You already know what happens next, what are the merits of a piece devoid of its context and startling freshness?
Set the agenda rather than follow the herd
NME was at its best when it led rather than followed. With so much free news and reviews online it will not survive by merely becoming a magazine version of its online competitors.
I can appreciate that any rebranding effort is a bold action in conception if perhaps not execution. But the move towards what feels like a Hello-style format is not one that music fans will swallow long-term. A strong and vitalic NME is good for music and good for its readers. Having read the magazine for the last eight years I know they can do better. Fingers crossed they do.