Tuesday, April 06, 2010

NME on the eve of another revamp

A lovely big, positive piece on the NME and new editor Krissi Murison was the highlight of yesterday's MediaGuardian - the newspaper's enthusiasm for the magazine in no way influenced, of course, by the magazine's sponsorship of the newspaper's student media awards.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the article was this:

Now it is tempting to think of the magazine as a 58-year-old who, having given birth to numerous offspring, nme.com, NME Radio, NME TV, NME Awards tour and Club NME, is being eclipsed by them. [Paul Cheal, the publishing director of NME and Uncut], who masterminded this brand diaspora, begs to differ: "The magazine is the cultural heartbeat of the brand and a lot of our journalistic integrity resides in the magazine and then spreads out." But he admits the mass of readers has "shifted online", with nme.com enjoying 4.5 million unique users a month. Cheal maintains the magazine is profitable and attracts a healthy number of music and lifestyle advertisers.

It's not entirely unlikely that the magazine makes a profit - there is a fair degree of advertising and fluffy advertorial set against editorial which doesn't suggest too much in the way of Time Warner resources being burned through to create it - and if Cheal is being straight, a couple of thousand extra readers might be all anyone needs at the weekly to sleep well at night. For the next couple of years, anyway.

Mind you, if the title is in rude health, it makes you wonder why there's the need for a wholesale revamp. Perhaps it was part of the deal to bring Krissi Murison in.

And - from the first glimpses on MediaGuardian today - the overhaul doesn't seem too bad.

Sure, it's disappointing that the logo has been reduced to a single block of colour - but on the other hand, the words "New Musical Express" have been restored to the masthead.

Yes, the idea of ten different covers has been done to death, and doing a multicover for no reason other than your own redesign suggests there's not much else to shout about. But, the other hand shows, the design of all ten covers looks bloody great - even the Kasabian one would be lovely, if it didn't have Kasabian on it. These are acts of love.

The choice of the ten cover stars is quite the Curate's egg, too: a handful of irk-the-purists choices (Rhianna, albeit with a sweary word), a few of the sort of interesting and intriguing new acts you never saw on the front page during the McNicholas years, and some thudding, dull, safe choices (the aforementioned Kasabian, and Jack White.)

It's intriguing - from this distance, it's hard to tell if the aim is a steady-as-she-goes don't-scare-the-horses attempt to change the ship's direction, or merely adding some shading to try and give the impression of depth to a 2D publication. Murison's issues so far have been mixed - generally with one cracker followed by three ho-hum editions - but now, surely, this is going to have to be a new era?