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The Great Escape 2012: Where next for the music press?

By | Published on Tuesday 15 May 2012

The Great Escape

Day two of last week’s Great Escape convention in Brighton included a focus on the music media, and the future of both the music press and music radio, in the UK and beyond. Before she joined the debate on the future of the music press, CMU caught up with the Sunday Times’ Serena Kutchinsky, and asked her what the music media might look like in ten years time – would print titles die out in her opinion, and where is digital publishing heading?

“Currently, there’s a lot of hype about the demise of print but not that much evidence it’s actually happening”, she mused. “Print is still relatively healthy. Websites have huge reach but haven’t yet found an effective revenue generating mechanism. Digital sales currently account for less than 1% of total ABCs. So print and digital formats are likely to continue to co-exist for at least the next ten years”.

She continued: “Tablet publishing is the new great white hope and the blueprint is there for this to become the dominant platform, offering an integrated, enhanced reader experience with room for longer format articles. Plus, the ability to have all your magazines stored on one device means you’re likely to read more, which is a positive for the industry. But the price of devices such as the iPad is currently preventing them from being ubiquitous. This is one area where the evolution over the next ten years is key but I think it’s still too early to make a definitive statement”.

Focusing in particular of the music press, Kutchinsky added: “In terms of titles, I think we all suspect that the NME will be digital only. Its print circulation is down to 27,650, yet its publishers claim an audience of over one million thanks to their digital platforms. If they can pour their energy into improving their digital offering and focusing on spin-off, brand enhancements such as NME Extra and NME Radio then there might be a future for what is still a strong brand. On the flip side to that, established online-only publications such as Drowned In Sound, Pitchfork and Resident Advisor might see revenue opportunities in physical products down the line, whether they be printed annuals, compendiums of best content presented in a box set, or other limited edition formats”.

Joining Kutchinsky on the new music press panel was Dan Miller from VICE, who likewise observed that while the future will obviously be dominated by digital, print still had its place. Similarly optimistic about the future, despite the many challenges faced by the magazine publishing sector just now, Miller also reckoned that those titles which properly engage their audience will be able to find revenue streams beyond somewhat lacklustre banner advertising – whether that be branded content, an area where VICE has led, or the subscription route, the option where Kutchinsky’s employers are the pioneers.

Miller told CMU: “The landscape will almost certainly be dominated by digital, but print will definitely still survive across some multi-platform titles. The success stories will be those that identify their audience and consistently engage and challenge them – be it through branded content or exploring subscription models”.