State fails to find a paying market

painting

Ireland’s other new national music magazine has announced it is to take a months break from active production, relaunching as a freesheet. Before I get to an analysis of the change, I’d like to point out a little something from States’s press release (reprinted in full below), which sticks in my craw.

The phrase is “It is set to become the first Quality National Music Monthly available completely free of charge!”. Lets parse that shall we, ‘first’ means original or only, ‘quality’ as in indicative of worth or high value, ‘national’ as in nationwide, ‘music’ as in covering or concerned with music and ‘monthly’, as in printed on a monthly basis. Four out of these five words combine into a factual claim, easily falsifiable. The fifth, the adjective ‘quality’ changes the meaning of the sentence from a statement of fact to one of opinion. Clearly State is not the ‘first national music monthly available completely free of charge’ (however dubiously you choose to capitalise it), that’s an empirically verifiable fact. Connected was (to the best of our knowledge) the first free magazine, focused on music, available throughout the Republic of Ireland. Analogue’s recent relaunch as a nationwide magazine makes it the second. The addition of the term ‘quality’ has a clear implication, and that is that neither Analogue nor Connected are quality pieces of work. The comment area below this article would be the ideal venue for an apology.

On to State’s future as a new national music freesheet. This isn’t as much of a change to the Irish market as it at first appears. The country plays host to a wide variety of regional and national advertising supported publications, many of which include music coverage. Whether magazine readership is a zero sum game, or whether by contrast the Irish audience has room to grow, is a question open to debate. The fact is that State, which already included advertising, is merely entering more fully into an increasingly competitive market for advertising supported music and culture publications – titles including ‘GCN’, ‘AU’, and ‘Totally Dublin’; rather than representing a novel direct threat to Analogue, Connected – or any other magazine.

Personally I hope State succeeds, both in finding an audience for it’s new format, and in continuing to pay its writers. As a paying market for writing about music it provides both an avenue for the development of new journalistic careers, and for readers an alternative to other music publications on the market, from ‘Hotpress‘ to ‘The Ticket‘. As a website, playing host to some of the most interesting music writers in the country (and now, likely, as Analogue has always done, reproducing for free the content of it’s printed cousin) State.ie provides another essential destination for Irish music fans; and enhanced community features can only add to that. The magazine is not to my personal taste, but that’s what great about magazines – no matter what your preference there’s likely one to suit, whether it be in the form of a printed publication, a web based outfit, or a PDF mag. As a comment on the state (no pun intended) of the for pay magazine, the change is telling. Combined with the closure of left wing political outlet ‘The Village’ (a move some of that magazine’s writers found out about only through a report in the Irish times), State’s going free questions the viability of paid niche magazines in the contemporary Irish market place. It’s one gradual step in a wider cultural change – people are less willing than ever to pay for things they can get (legally or otherwise) for free.

PRESS RELEASE

State Magazine
Ireland’s Quality National Monthly Is Free!

After a month of rumours and speculation State Magazine is ready to announce its plans for the future. It is set to become the first Quality National Music Monthly available completely free of charge!

After only 6 issues the monthly magazine has already established its credentials as a vibrant and incisive publication with attention to detail, a design that is second to none and impeccable production values. In addition its sister website (www.state.ie) has proved itself constantly on top of its game with breaking news, interviews and reviews that keep it bang up to the moment and ahead of the pack.

With their publication now a recognised brand the minds behind State Magazine are determined to move things forwards, onwards and upwards.

Their first step will be the launch of a newly strengthened and emboldened website hosted at their usual address.

Meanwhile the published magazine will take a one-month break to restructure its production and distribution returning with a November issue at the beginning of October which will be distributed nationally and available free of charge!

“We have produced 6 issues the old fashioned way,” explains publisher Roger Woolman, “and we feel it’s time to make a change and communicate more directly with our current readers as well as making our journalism and photography available to an even wider audience.

“We will still be producing a magazine of the highest quality filled with impeccable journalism, exclusive photography and top-end design but we don’t want to restrict ourselves and our readers by relying on traditional methods of distribution and sales, so we’re going to try something new: a top quality music magazine for free!”

The magazine will initially be instantly available in Ireland’s main towns and cities but will also be available by post for no more than the real price of postage and packing to anyone who subscribes. And in an unprecedented move this subscription service will be available right around the world!

“The fact that our magazine is Irish doesn’t mean that only people living in Ireland want to read it,” Woolman commented. “Our readership will be as big and broad as we allow it to be and we want it to be worldwide!”

Note: This article (like all Analogue articles) represents only the opinions of its writer.

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17 thoughts on “State fails to find a paying market

  1. Wow, strongly worded there G. Got to say I was annoyed at the wording, but to be honest it seems such a climb down for them, after last months final toss of the paying market dice, that I can’t really summon the venom.

    Anyway, more power to them, its great to have as much a spot light on Ireland’s music scene as possible- and I like their overseas subscription service, an expensive little admin job for the lads but a nice innovation, and coupled with their populous look at the music scene and high standard of design, it might see them through.

    A note to the lads in State- keep on trucking, and fire the guy who writes your press releases, they’re always hateful.

  2. While I don’t actually read State (couldn’t afford it…) and I was a little annoyed at the wording of the press release (though you can hardly blame an entire magazine for one lousy writer), it’ll be interesting to see how they fare in a freesheet market.

    I think the over-sea’s subscription thing is great- as is the one within Ireland itself. Thing is, will it be done on an per-issue basis, or as an annual thing? Either way, it’s a post-room headache for somebody, and doesn’t look to be particularly sustainable.

  3. As a fan of both Analogue and State, for me it’ll be interesting to see how well this free distribution, as, in my experience, the Analogue freesheet is hard to find if you’re not in a city.

  4. Sorry, hate the way I phrased that last comment. Flicking through State for the first time in Eason I thought “Wow, this is great!” And I like that they put ABBA on the cover last month, but noted the usual apologetic tone at the start of the ABBA feature itself. All-in-all though, a very good read; nice layout and design, great content.

  5. Man, it’s tough out there. State probably should have launched as a freesheet..if at all. Foggy Notions and Mongrel had just folded (metaphorically) when State came out and, to be honest, they were never gonna top the quality of Foggy Notions (for a cover price) and the free lunacy of Mongrel which got picked up by people other than music fans. It was really bad timing.

  6. BREAKING NEWS! There’s a different statement on the site this morning, with this contentious point addressed:

    Of course we’re not the first to take this approach (props to our colleagues at Mongrel, Analogue and Connected) and the way things are going we’re sure we won’t be the last, but we are genuinely excited by the prospects that await us.

  7. Fair play to them for changing it. The reaction Gareth gave could only be expected to the previous ill-thought out attempt. I think it will be interesting to see what they come up with for the first free issue.

  8. In an actual serious comment – maintaining it with a professional staff and paying what they pay per CD review might be tough for them now. Like Una was saying, and Bren points out a lot, we have a load of young people with pretty strong opinions who are willing enough to put the time into writing for free. State have those people too (gleefully reviewing for pocket money), but it might be hard to get their top tier to accept pay cuts for doing what they might be able to do for a newspaper or another magazine for more money.

    In fairness to them, most of them do seem quite personally invested in the magazine, so maybe they’ll do it for the love. If they wreck our buzz we might have to fight them though.

  9. I realise this will be interpreted as sour grapes; but I’m really disappointed with the new state website. As far as I can see it’s just an uglier wordpress theme. The look of the original state.ie was one thing I really admired about the magazine. We’ve had to muddle through with the look of the Analogue site (not having a professional web designer on staff), though I couldn’t be prouder of the content on the site. With State’s resources I was expecting something special on the web end – perhaps integrating new community technologies to help make the site a hub. As is, it just seems like a more regularly updated, worse looking blog.

  10. I preferred the first design too, but it didn’t allow for much content. As my girlfriend said, “it looked like one giant ad.” I’m sure they’ll tweak the design as they go on, but I think the current design will work out better in the long run.

  11. The headline for this article assumes that State didn’t sell very well. It sold very well where it was placed. The trouble was getting it into the stores and tracking the distribution. The middle man has now been taken away. I see a lot of assumptions on a number of blogs, which is expected, but this headline is factually incorrect 😉

  12. Not to retreat into pedantry, but the headline implies nothing of the sort. It merely suggests that State was unable to find a paying market. For the sake of argument,
    if I printed thousands of copies of a highly desirable magazine, and then left them to rot in my basement, I too would have ‘fail[ed] to find a paying market’.

    Incidentally, if you are – as implied by your comment – privy to State’s sales figures, I’m sure folks here and elsewhere would love to hear what you have to say :).

    Finally, and this is just out of curiosity… How might a magazine increase it’s distribution – without street teams – by becoming free? AFAIK, it’s more difficult to get newsagents to stock a publication which does not contribute to their bottom line. By contrast, distributing to non-traditional outlets like clubs and bars is a much more difficult (and potentially expensive) undertaking.

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