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Scott Rowley – Q & A

Earlier this month, TeamRock launched a new online subscription model, TeamRock+. Editorial Director Scott Rowley answers our questions.

By Scott Rowley

Q. Why have TeamRock decided to go behind a paywall now?

A. We haven’t “decided to go behind a paywall” – thousands of our articles are still available for free and thousands more available for free registered members – we’ve just made our magazine content available worldwide for anyone interested in subscribing to it on an online platform.

Our brands have built enormous fan bases across the world – Metal Hammer has 1,247,000 followers on Facebook; Classic Rock will have a million by Christmas (971k right now) – people who, until now, couldn't find our magazines, now, wherever they are, whatever device or operating system they have, they can read the latest issue of Classic Rock, Metal Hammer or Prog magazine, all for one price.

We have three levels of membership: free (which gives you access to news only), registered (which is also free and gives you access to our daily online features) and TeamRock+ members (who get access to everything, including stories from our three print titles reformatted and optimised with bonus content, updated daily).

Q. Where do you see the future of your print titles?

A. The print brands are the future – we’re just making them available on different platforms. I’ve got a little mantra I’ve been boring people with for the past year: we’re not in the paper business, we’re in the story business. None of us got into this business because we love paper – we love stories, we love music. The print brands have built up a loyal following based on the quality of their writing, design and photography. Just as some people love vinyl records, some people will always prefer to have a print copy. Others might prefer a tablet edition – we’ve just redesigned all our digital editions; they’re easily the best music mags on iTunes – and some people might be happier with online editions.

Rock fans like “stuff” – they buy more vinyl, more CDs and more box sets than your average music fan. So for that reason, I think our print titles especially have a long future ahead of them.

I also think print will have to become even more… lovely. We sell digital editions on the interactivity and convenience. It’s something to DO, not just something to read and because it’s on your phone or tablet you have it with you all the time. Online is a similar proposition: it’s convenient, cheaper and has bonus elements (YouTube embeds, picture galleries etc). Print is seen as the deluxe option: great design and packaging, glossy pictures etc. But not all print products are truly deluxe – I think there will be more onus on us to make objects of desire. Magazines that people love to hold and collect. So I think print will become better – it has to.

Print is also the starting point for the stories: the stories are commissioned by the magazine editors and worked up for print first before it’s transferred to the other platforms. So it’s the key stage. We’re taking the values of print – the access and insight that comes with great writing – and combining it with the interactivity and immediacy of online.

Q. You say you have an expanding international market. Won't putting up a paywall drive them away?

A. Our international audience never had access to our magazine content, so they won’t miss it. In fact, now that we’ve introduced metering, registered members can access three articles from TeamRock+ content every month (ie three features from current magazines). They’re getting more content and access than ever before.

Q. So what will subscribers get that is additional to what TeamRock were offering before?

A. We’re thinking of them as members, not just subscribers. They get access to all three magazine brands – Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog – for the same price of £3.99 a month for online-only. (Print subscribers can upgrade their subscription to include TR+, as can digital edition subscribers.) This wasn’t available before. We’re also publishing-as-we-go. So, right now, you can read some of the next issue of Prog. The print mag is at the printers but the team are drip-feeding some of that issue’s content every day.

It will also change the relationship between the mag and its readership – and the bands they write about. For the first time, readers can read a story and then comment directly under it, communicating with the writer and other TeamRock members. The artists themselves can link directly to our stories via their social media and send their fan bases over to read. The print magazine was this controlled environment where the Editor had a say over all the content – the internet’s just knocked the walls down and invited everyone in.