Today in Tesco, prior to finding something suitable for lunch, I took my usual detour down the magazine aisle. This is my standard place to visit first, even if I rarely buy anything. I browsed the computing section, then moved onto the music magazines: Q, NME, etc. At the back was a magazine I've bought quite a few times before, but not recently: The Word. On its front cover were the words 'The Final Edition'. I bought it.
So, after about nine years of publication, The Word is ceasing publication. This was announced a couple of weeks ago apparently (BBC News, Editor's Twitter update), but clearly passed me by.
I was never a subscriber to the magazine - although it was considered several times - and I didn't even buy it that regularly, but I do feel it is a great shame that it has had to withdraw from the newsstands. The reason, as I'm sure everybody would guess, is financial: magazines are seeing a drop in sales and a drop in advertising enquiries, and the music industry has altered substantially over the last decade. All in all, the magazine just isn't making the money it needs to in order to survive. So, off it goes.
Since I only bought it sporadically, it seems a little hypocritically to bemoan its loss: I didn't exactly provide the full support that I could have during its life. But still, I bought it when a) I could afford it and b) it seemed to have something of particular interest within.
I think the biggest draw, for me, was the cover-CD. The free music provided was always varied, always of interest (even if I didn't necessarily like all of it), and frequently inspired me to find new music by some of the artists included. The loss of that alone is sad, even though I know that - with just a few minutes searching - I could probably find an equivalent source of regular new music online (indeed, PlugIn Music has been offering hand-picked free music for at least four years, and the site itself has been around in various forms for over a decade). But, beyond any freebies that the magazine gave away, the content itself was substantially different to other music publications.
Put simply: there was a lot of text. In a market that seems to favour an image-hungry public with short-attention spans, it was refreshing to find a magazine that took some time in pumping out articles with a heavy word-count. The reviews ignored any kind of rating system, preferring you to actually draw your own conclusion based on the writer's opinion... again, somewhat different to the habit of just scanning down to the 'X out of 10' mark. The Word was, well, word-y, and fortunately with the high-quality writing to go with it.
Although definitely a 'music magazine' it did also touch on other media like TV, film, books, etc. Essentially, even if the main feature wasn't to my liking, there would more than enough for me to read elsewhere inside.
With free options for everything nowadays, and the Internet being the prime source of information for most people, I suppose it was inevitable that a magazine which targeted a very specific readership would eventually suffer.
I shall sit and enjoy this final issue, listen to the last of its free CDs (which includes a new Reverend & The Makers track, so I am pleased with that already), and then slot it amongst the few other magazines that I've chosen to keep. Its website remains online for now.
"What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?" - Nick Hornby (High Fidelity)