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June 22, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 11:27am

Time Out London comes to ‘happy, natural end’ in print

By Bron Maher

Time Out distributes its last London print copies on Thursday.

The final edition leads on a “London Rising” theme and features a send-off column from London mayor Sadiq Khan.

The magazine will continue to publish online – including through a new daily email – but Thursday’s will be the last “regular issue” paper edition.

Originally scheduled for Tuesday 21 June, the final publish date was pushed back to Thursday by rail strikes. There are four versions of the last Time Out, each with a front cover created by a different London artist.

The cover story, London Rising, centres on “a fresh generation of activists, artists and partystarters shaking up our city”, and spotlights events and venues at which Londoners can get in on the new scenes identified.

Guest writing for the magazine’s City Life column, Sadiq Khan describes Time Out as “my passport out of Tooting”, recounting that as a sixth-former “I’d go to WHSmith on the other side of Streatham High Road and go through Time Out with a pen and paper because I couldn’t afford to buy it”.

The issue also features “love letters to London” from authors living in the city, including Stewart Lee (“I love London for its jazz clubs”), Bernardine Evaristo (“I love London for its magical theatres”) and Joel Golby (“I love London for the kindness of its drunk strangers”).

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How did Time Out London begin?

Now operating in 59 countries, Time Out began in London in 1968 as a single-page pamphlet distributed by late founder Tony Elliott.

Press Gazette asked Time Out chief content officer Dave Calhoun whether he felt melancholy about the death of the print mag.

“Weirdly no, it doesn’t feel melancholy. And this is me saying that – I’ve been at Time Out for 18 years.”

Calhoun said he didn’t feel downbeat because “it feels to me like it’s coming to a happy, natural end. And that’s the same with the team here, actually, I’m not giving you the spin on that.

“I just sat down half an hour ago with our Time Out London editor Joe Mackertich. We were having a similar conversation: ‘This is a big week.’ We’ve launched so many things, we’re saying goodbye to the magazine. Both of us sat there and 100% agreed: ‘You know what, this actually feels right and good.'”

Mackertich, previously the editor of another now-shuttered free magazine, Shortlist, said in April: “Paper and ink doesn’t have the monopoly on quality. A digital product can be as funny, insightful, collaborative and rewarding as a print one. It’s time for us to prove it.”

Part of that bid has seen Time Out refresh its email offering, moving from a weekly email to a daily one that launched on Monday.

Calhoun said: “We wanted to be in our audience’s inbox daily. And we wanted to create something that felt even more special than the emails that we previously sent out.

“So we’ve gone all in on the creative and the design of it. It’s an email where, certainly, we want people to go from the email to our other platforms. But we also want people just to love it, and that’s enough.”

Also supplying some continuity between the paper and silicon realms, on 28 June Time Out plans to launch the first of its digital covers. The covers will not be tied to an e-edition of the magazine, but rather form “a talking point” relating to coverage the site is providing. The first, for example, will concern London’s Pride celebrations.

Will Time Out London face job cuts?

Asked in April whether abandoning print would create job losses, Time Out told Press Gazette: “Consultations with the affected staff are already in progress.”

Asked for an update, Calhoun said: “We’ve definitely had to look at the team, look at who we need – some people’s jobs are affected but it’s definitely not a case that we’re coming out the other side of this with a smaller team. Quite the opposite…

“From an editorial point of view, the vast majority of our editorial team were already working across all platforms. So it really has impacted a small number of people.”

The business has experimented with multiple revenue models in the past decade. It dropped its cover price in August 2012 and ended its subscription service in 2019, and was forced to go online-only under the rebrand “Time In” when the first Covid lockdown hit.

The publication managed to revive the regular London, Barcelona and Madrid print editions in August 2020, but in April this year the business announced it would permanently cease publishing physical copies in its home city. The Barcelona and Madrid editions continue to print, along with some quarterly editions in other cities around the world.

Time Out London’s print distribution from July to December 2021 was 311,617, modestly up on its distribution in the same period in 2019.

Calhoun confirmed that “we’re definitely leaving the door open” to one-off special print runs in the future.

But he added: “We’re very, very confident about our digital foundation… 

“We’ve got 1.5 million followers on Facebook, a million on Instagram as well. So we were really really thinking about – we have these million people with us on Instagram. They already have a strong relationship with us through that channel and through other channels. So how can we deal with that? What can we give them that’s new?”

Pictures: Kris Andrew Small, Real Hackney Dave (aka Dave Buonaguidi), Lakwena Maciver and Hassan Hajjaj via Time Out

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