As a friend commented on hearing the news that NME was stopping its weekly print edition, "The saddest thing is the fact that I don't care." Couldn't have put it much better myself.
Not that I ever really cared about the publication as much as many other people did. I was too young for its late 70s/early 80s heyday (when, as the recent Chalkie Davies/Denis O'Regan touring photo exhibition The Art Of Punk And New Wave underlined, it performed a vital role in informing and enthusing provincial audiences about punk and what followed), and in the 90s Kerrang! was my mag of choice. It wasn't until about 1998 or 1999 that I started consuming its contents religiously, only to call it quits around 2004 or 2005 when it felt like it had gone past the point of no return in becoming a comic.
Quietus editor John Doran has argued that even in the noughties it continued to commission pieces on genuinely worthy, interesting and out-there acts (some of them written by Doran himself), but these were few and far between, with greater prominence given to articles championing no-marks like Kasabian.
Not only did the quantity of text plummet, but the quality did too, with awful features desperately chasing the youth market and tedious listicles aplenty. It seemed to forget what it was originally supposed to do, a victim of the rise of quality online music journalism (hello Pitchfork, Stylus, Drowned In Sound et al) but also one that almost willingly committed suicide.
The switch to a free ad-funded publication in which music content was almost incidental - the last desperate throw of the dice - failed to generate renewed interest, with the stacks of untouched past issues lying around the university building in which I work a damning indictment of that strategy. It's not as though free music publications can't work, either - see the excellent Loud And Quiet, for instance, or locally focused publications such as The Skinny.
The closure of the print edition left Paul Cheal of NME's publishers Time Inc blathering on about the continuation of the "brand" and an exciting online future. That word "brand" in itself tells you a lot about what has gone wrong. NME is dead, to all intents and purposes.