Legendary British Magazine NME Shutters Print Edition

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Paul Heaton of Beautiful South reading a copy of NME. 

This Friday's issue will be the last for the 66-year-old magazine.

Citing rising production costs and a bleak advertising market, legendary British magazine New Musical Express (NME) will scrap its print edition after this week's issue. The magazine's publisher, Time Inc. UK, framed the news on Wednesday as a "new direction" towards a more digital strategy for the storied brand, which launched in 1952 as a music newspaper and shifted to a magazine format in the late 1990s.

NME dropped its cover price in September 2015, becoming a free weekly geared more towards a mainstream pop-loving audience. (It's first cover star during the free era was Rihanna.) In a statement, Time Inc. UK managing director of music Paul Cheal credited the brand's "print re-invention" for broadening its appeal and for leading to the "biggest ever audience" for its online content machine, NME.com.

"At the same time, we have also faced increasing production costs and a very tough print advertising market," Cheal noted. "Unfortunately we have now reached a point where the free weekly magazine is no longer financially viable. It is in the digital space where effort and investment will focus to secure a strong future for this famous brand."

The shuttering of the print magazine follows the recent departure of longtime editor Mike Williams. The title's parent company, Time Inc, was recently purchased by Iowa-based Meredith Corporation.

NME.com attracts 13 million global unique monthly users, according to comScore. Time Inc. said it will launch a number of new digital services, including two new music channels on NME Audio and an in-depth weekly feature called the Big Read, which will replace the magazine's cover interview. Its ticketing service will also get an upgrade, the company said.

Additionally, NME will continue to publish special issues in print under the NME Gold banner -- the latest is dedicated to The Jam's Paul Weller.

Keith Walker, digital director of NME, said: "NME has been at the digital forefront for more than two decades. Our global digital audience has almost doubled over the past two years. With these new developments, we are giving consumers even more of what they want from us. By making the digital platforms our core focus we can accelerate the amazing growth we’ve seen and reach more people than ever before on the devices they’re most naturally using."