“ The last throw of the dice”

There are only a few magazines today that have had as longstanding success as NME. The vanquishing magazine, which had been published weekly since 1952, decided to become a free magazine in September 2015. This decision came after a decade- long decrease in sales. The decline resulted in the magazine sales just to 15,000 copies. In September 2015, 30,000 copies of the magazine were distributed free of charge. This was in the hope to generate more advertising revenue and to preserve the survival of the magazine.

However instead of looking at this as a mark of desperation, the free-sheet market is outsmarting its paid-for rivals. Many print branded magazines are struggling to survive their publication. In Contrary, the free-sheet publications seem to be thriving.

In 2015, the ABC figures showed that the magazine market was having a difficult time. The UK magazine circulation had fallen by an average of 5.3%, whilst newspaper sales had declined by 7.6% within the same year. Despite this, the free-sheet newspaper circulation figures saw a less bleak outcome prospects, with only 1.8% decline in that year, demonstrating their success compared to their paid-for rivals.

Advertising has had a key part to play in the success of free-sheet publications. This is because advertising companies are now aware of the decline in magazine sales, and they want their advertisement to reach as wider audience as possible. They are more likely to invest in free-sheet magazines because they are mindful of the everyday commuter, or the everyday coffee shop reader that is more likely to pick up or be given a free-sheet magazine, that they flick through as they endure on their daily life routines.

Generation differences are also something to consider when favouring towards free-sheet magazines. We are facing a generation, which have grown up with the internet. They naturally have the expectation to get high quality entertainment and content without having to pay for it. For this reason the free-sheet business model competes to meet this expectation.

The free-sheet magazines also help to reduce wastage levels of prints. Supermarkets never want to sell out on magazines because they don’t want an empty shelf in their stores, therefore magazine publications have to provide far more prints than is actually required. On average only 65% of print are actually being sold, leaving the rest as waste. In contrast, 90% of free-sheet prints are given away on average, leaving a lot less waste.

This is something to consider for us aspiring students, to look outside the box and keep up with these challenging times.


Shermin Shams