Giving it away
So, the NME, the venerable music industry magazine, is giving in to its declining readership figures and is instead to be given away for free. Cue much talk of how the circulation will immediately go up, because, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want something for free, especially the NME, which has generally been well-regarded.
But of course, nothing is ever really free; rather, the income will come completely from the advertisers and they will now become the sole target market, rather than the readers, and no doubt the editorial budget will be cut further. The readers can hardly complain if they don’t value the publication enough to pay for it.
But it worries me that if the default business model for the media is to rely on advertising, how can we build a relationship with the readers? But without such a relationship we have no mandate to write stories questioning what other people are doing, which is the fundamental raison d’être of a free press. Ironically, undermining the relationship with the readers also diminishes the value of the advertising.