Publisher Time Inc UK is shutting down the free weekly NME magazine, with today’s issue (9 March 2018) the last to be distributed. The free version lasted just two and a half years and was a shadow of its illustrious predecessor.

The free NME magazine was a successor to the weekly publication that started in 1952 as New Musical Express and became an iconic part of rock journalism, competing nationally with the long-defunct Melody Maker and Sounds, and globally with Rolling Stone

The paid-for weekly was last published with a cover date of 1 August 2015, after 63 years on the newsstands, with a bumper “commemorative special” 132-page issue priced at £3.50. NME re-emerged a few weeks later, on 18 September 2015, as a free magazine featuring Rihanna on the cover, along with a new version of the website at NME.com. 

The website will continue, along with occasional print publications such as NME Gold, Time Inc UK says. “It is in the digital space where effort and investment will focus to secure a strong future for this famous brand,” Time Inc UK group managing director for music Paul Cheal says. 

Private equity firm Epiris bought Time Inc UK from media company Meredith on 26 February 2018. Later that day, NME editor-in-chief Mike Williams quit with immediate effect. Williams had overseen the magazine’s move from paid to free circulation. 

NME’s circulation peaked in the mid 1960s during the heyday of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. After a dip during the prog rock era, the paper revived by hiring new writers such as Nick Kent and Charles Shaar Murray. In the punk years, they were joined by Julie Burchill, Paul Morley, Tony Parsons, Ian Penman and Danny Baker (later to edit the paper).

Editor Neil Spencer (1978-85) redesigned the publication with the late Barney Bubbles, creating the iconic NME logo. Notable journalists at the time included Paolo Hewitt, Barney Hoskyns, David Quantick, Mat Snow and the late Steven Wells (initially as Susan Williams, aka Seething Wells). Famous photographers at NME included Adrian Boot, Anton Corbijn, Chalkie Davies and Pennie Smith.