The sudden announcement from The Word Magazine this morning was at least in keeping with the magazine’s own tradition – it was unexpected, unsensational and beautifully poised. And it spawned a great, great many sad responses on the magazine’s own website.
One of them was from me. I’ve read every edition of The Word since it came out nearly ten years ago. Initially, I jumped in because it seemed like a second bite of a publishing apple I’d already richly enjoyed in the shape of the early years of Q Magazine. Same editor, same publisher (Mark Ellen, David Hepworth), same very clever, very funny and deeply sensible attitude to good music.
But it soon became apparent that Ellen, Hepworth and me had grown up a lot since those early days of Q in the 1980s. We read more books now. We watched more television. The Internet had come along and made it possible for us to talk to each other. The Word masterfully catered for all these changes – and not least of them was the fact that we were all older.
Was that why it failed? That it spoke so clearly and so resonantly to people the “wrong” side of 40, who’d seen a bit of the world, had become immune to hype, didn’t care anymore about what was fashionable but only what was good? Were there not enough people like that to sell enough copies to? Or did advertisers not want to speak to them?
Probably some of that, and a big slice of the decline in recorded music revenues leading to a decline in music advertising. There are a lot of music magazines still standing – and Q itself has had a shot in the arm under the editorship of Andrew Harrison. This in itself may not have helped The Word’s fortunes.
The thing that makes me saddest of all, I realise, is that losing The Word means losing a platform for David Hepworth and Mark Ellen. I’ve come to see those two as my groovy uncles. I never read Smash Hits (their first triumph), but I was an avid watcher of Whistle Test Mark II, which they presented, and Q Magazine was there while my music tastes began to mature. The Word was there in the most recent phase, when I had some money and could buy the music I wanted to buy, not to mention the books and the DVDs. Hepworth has become possibly my favourite writer in any medium – witty, tart, urbane, warm, unimpeachable. Ellen’s enthusiasm and editorial nous made The Word into my favourite magazine. And the two of them in my ears courtesy of the The Word podcast was like being at the best dinner party anyone held ever.
By God I’m sad about this. I hope they come back, somehow, soon.