Dissertation statement of intent

Proposed title:

Is the fall in print circulation and the rise in digital platforms jeopardising sustainability in music journalism?



In my dissertation I will be looking at the fall in the circulation of music magazines and the increase in audiences engaging with music journalism digitally.

As well as just focusing on music, I will be looking at the magazine and journalism industries as a whole as it is not only music journalism that is changing. In fact, latest ABC figures revealed that only 60 out of 442 UK printed magazines increased sales in 2015. Due to the fall in circulation of print I will be examining why this is happening and how magazines are shifting to digital media to sustain audiences, and how they can generate income from this.

As well as magazines moving onto digital platforms, I will also be looking at blogging and how it affects the demand for professional and quality music journalism. By discussing these topics, I aim to create a very detailed argument that examines all of the possible outcomes.



The circulation of music magazines has been falling and some have even had to go into administration. It is not just music magazines that are losing sales but in fact most magazines thanks to digital platforms.

With an increase in audiences online and the expectations from consumers to view content for free, there is a risk of not generating enough income through having to rely solely on advertisers.

Due to how easily accessible digital platforms are there has also been an increase in the amount of bloggers there are. Amateurs have the ability to set up their own music blogs and write reviews etc. in the comfort of their own homes with no experience and no expectations of being paid by someone. With the rise in bloggers, some argue that there is no longer a need for professional music journalism as you can read anyone’s opinions of musicians anywhere with the click of a button. Therefore, there is less chance of people being paid for their work and having a career in music journalism.


Details of research:

My research will include interviews, reading academic journals and books, reading biographies and news stories and finding published data.

My preferred way to interview my primary sources is to interview them either face to face or on the phone and record them, so I have an audio file that I can listen to and refer back to. However, I will also be open to communicating with individuals through email as they are very busy people. The aim of these interviews will be to gather opinions and facts on the subject of my dissertation to back up my argument.

My secondary sources will be used to assert any points I make and will help create a balanced argument.

Any data I collect will also help back up arguments and will demonstrate issues like the decline in sales of magazines.


Research subjects:

In my research I am going to find a wide range of different opinions for my argument in my dissertation. It is important to me to have a good balance of sources who argue for and against.

For the dissertation I am going to rely heavily on primary sources, as the topic of the discussion is more recent and there will not be as many secondary sources I could use out there. I have already identified industry experts to speak to, who are music journalists, editors and producers. I also plan to use academic sources, and published works and books.

My list of sources I have identified is small and I plan to identify more over the summer as I conduct more extensive research.


Primary sources:

  • Clare McDonnell (BBC Radio 5 Live). Former presenter on BBC Radio 6 Music. She has had experience in music and entertainment journalism.
  • Sylvia Patterson. Music journalist who has working in the industry for three decades. She has worked for Smash Hits and NME.
  • Georgia Rawson, editor of Discovered Magazine. Young editor of music magazine.
  • Mike White, Browse Magazine. Young editor of a free, hyperlocal independent music and culture magazine/website.
  • Danielle Partis, freelance writer for TeamRock’s Metal Hammer.
  • Other people involved in BBC Radio 6 Music.
  • Amy Lund. Programme leader for BA (Hons) Magazine Journalism at Leeds Trinity University.


Secondary sources/reading list:

  • I’m Not With the Band: A Writer’s Life Lost in Music by Sylvia Patterson
  • Rock Stars Stole My Life!: A Big Bad Love Affair with Music by Mark Ellen
  • Working in the Music Industry: How to Find an Exciting and Varied Career in the World of Music by Anna Britten
  • Networked: A Contemporary History of News in Transition by Adrienne Russell
  • Journalism: Critical Issues by Stuart Allan
  • The Media of Mass Communication by John Vivian


Potential outcomes:

There are a several potential outcomes from my research. It could be argued that music journalism will still be going strong across all platforms, including magazines, thanks to loyal readers. It could also be argued that while the sale of magazines is declining, there is still money from advertisers to be made with audiences looking at digital and online platforms. Or, because of the rise in bloggers and amateur writers, it could also be argued that it is difficult to find paying jobs as a professional writer for an online music website.



To ensure I keep on track I am going to create Gantt charts using Microsoft Excel. I will have one big Gantt chart that summarises when I need to have things done by which I will print off and place on my bedroom wall, as well as having an electronic version. I will also create smaller charts to break down monthly periods to go into detail about my research and how much I will need to have written by certain dates to avoid panic and putting it all off until last minute.



Now that I have narrowed down my ideas for my dissertation and come up with a title, I feel more focused on what research I need to do and I am looking forward to speaking to my primary sources.

My next few months with consist of a huge amount of research and drafts leading up to my piece of work that will be completed in February. I am confident that this will be done within the timeframe and I will keep on track with the personal deadlines and timeframes I plan to set myself. I hope to complete a dissertation that is of a high standard.



Industry reflection: What can publishers do to try to prevent public concern around the ethics of virtual reality?

With virtual reality, audiences are immersed into stories and different situations. These stories are often issues in society and audiences are “encouraged to empathise with the characters”(1).

However, the portrayal of issues such as violent acts in a real-life simulation could have a negative affect. “It’s possible this immersive medium can be used to encourage negative behaviour,”(2) because publishers may desensitise serious matters.

Another issue with virtual reality is ‘cyber-addiction’. Users can “become addicted to virtual reality games and as a consequence, start to blur the boundary between real and virtual life. They spend increasing amounts of time in the virtual environment which has a detrimental effect on their real world life”(3).

A study commissioned by Wiggin LPP revealed that “majorities of respondents would be concerned about losing awareness of the real world around them (69%), a reduced sense of right and wrong (59%), becoming addicted to VR (58%) or the experience of VR affecting them after use (55%)”(4).

Freelance VR producer for the BBC Catherine Allen gave five tips for news outlets looking to produce this kind of immersive storytelling, at the VR and AR World conference in London in October 2016. She explained that virtual reality is likely to have a negative affect when not enough research has been carried out.

The first tip Allen said was that journalists should make a risk analysis. “It’s important to make a risk analysis from both an integrity and ethics perspective, and a health and safety perspective.”(5)

She also said you should test what you are producing as you’re making it early on, as “it is quite unlikely your audience will have ever experienced anything that you’re making before”(6). She explained “maybe you could run small focus groups or surveys, just like you would do for product-testing.”(7)

Allen said to make audiences “feel comfortable”(8), you could give a prologue which “gives then some context and tells them what they’re going into”(9). By doing so, you won’t be just “randomly dropping them into a situation”(10) where they may feel unsafe and out of control.

She also said readers should be encouraged to be active customers who provide you with feedback. Allen explained “with feedback, you can improve your process next time according to how they felt about that experience – it’s important to co-create with your audience, working with them to develop the product.”(11)

The final tip Allen gave was to diversify teams. She said “getting diversity into your team whether that’s through gender, age, ethnicity, or experience level, will allow you to create a product with integrity.”(12)


(1) https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/5-key-considerations-for-ethical-virtual-reality-storytelling/s2/a684394/

(2) https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/why-publishers-of-virtual-reality-need-to-be-aware-of-moral-panic/s2/a702215/

(3) https://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality/ethical-issues.html

(4) http://www.comresglobal.com/polls/wiggin-virtual-reality-ethics-survey/

(5) https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/5-key-considerations-for-ethical-virtual-reality-storytelling/s2/a684394/

(6) https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/5-key-considerations-for-ethical-virtual-reality-storytelling/s2/a684394/

(7) https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/5-key-considerations-for-ethical-virtual-reality-storytelling/s2/a684394/

(8) https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/5-key-considerations-for-ethical-virtual-reality-storytelling/s2/a684394/

(9) https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/5-key-considerations-for-ethical-virtual-reality-storytelling/s2/a684394/

(10) https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/5-key-considerations-for-ethical-virtual-reality-storytelling/s2/a684394/

(11) https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/5-key-considerations-for-ethical-virtual-reality-storytelling/s2/a684394/

(12) https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/5-key-considerations-for-ethical-virtual-reality-storytelling/s2/a684394/


Industry reflection: Is print dead, and is the future of journalism purely online?

It is clear that print is declining rapidly in circulation, looking at ABC’s latest figures – but is print dead?

In the second half of 2016 local weekly newspapers in the UK lost print circulation by an average of 11.2 per cent year on year.

And not only did weekly newspapers lose circulation but also regional dailies, which fell by an average of 12.5 per cent in the same period.

The Press Gazette said “pressure on advertising means most UK regional newspapers are currently seeing declining overall revenue”(1). They also suggested the decline is “possibly fuelled by cover price rises, editorial cutbacks and readership moving to online”(2).

While print has been declining there has been a rapid growth in online readership which suggests journalism is moving towards being purely digital. Reportedly, “nearly every regional newspaper website audited by ABC recorded strong growth in the second half of 2016”(3).

However there is still a glimpse of hope for the survival of national newspapers as in January this year (2017) The Times and The Observer both boosted their sales in print year on year. According to ABC, “The Observer rose 1.4 per cent to 185,752 and paid-for sales of The Times rose 3.8 per cent year on year to 379,861.”(4)

Although the two nationals have seen a positive growth in print, it doesn’t mean they are performing well. Reportedly, their figures boosted due to the distribution of free bulk copies “at places like hotels and airports”(5). By distributing free copies there is a high chance revenue would be lost, as it still costs them to print the extra copies. Therefore even if circulation increases, income will still decline.

In conclusion, print definitely seems to be dying rapidly and online journalism is booming. There doesn’t seem to be any money that can be made from print journalism anymore and it is clear that online is the way to go forward for the media.

(1) http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/abcs-uk-local-weekly-newspapers-lose-print-sales-by-average-of-11-2-per-cent/

(2) http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/abcs-uk-local-weekly-newspapers-lose-print-sales-by-average-of-11-2-per-cent/

(3) http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/abcs-regional-press-website-growth-offsets-print-decline-as-manchester-evening-news-beats-standard/

(4) http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/national-newspaper-print-abcs-for-jan-2017-observer-up-year-on-year-the-sun-is-fastest-riser-month-on-month/

(5) http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/national-newspaper-print-abcs-for-jan-2017-observer-up-year-on-year-the-sun-is-fastest-riser-month-on-month/


Industry reflection: Is the printed magazine industry dead?

Since the introduction of digital media in the magazine industry, many have predicted the death of print. Now in 2017 there is a big debate going around on whether or not the industry is dead.
Latest ABC figures revealed that only 60 out of 442 UK magazines increased sales in 2015. Unfortunately this comes as no shock as the Press Gazette previously reported that “the UK’s 503 magazines audited by ABC lost print sales at an average rate of 6.3 per cent year on year in the second half 2013” (1) .
One of the best performers in 2015 was women’s monthly magazine Cosmopolitan, which has grown in its circulation by 57 per cent – “putting the brakes on a period of rapid decline”(2).

According to the Press Gazette “around half of the increase was due to more free pick-up copies. Cosmopolitan was also helped by a big reduction in cover price, from £3.80 to £1, and increased promotional activity including use of ‘pop-up’ distribution points”(3).

And not only has Cosmopolitan changed to stick around but in fact, many of the magazines in the industry have changed to sustain audiences.

Joely Carey argues that the magazine market isn’t dead. However it is “different”(4), because of these changes in the way in which magazines circulate and their prices.

However, while many magazines are having to change to stop themselves from declining, there are still magazines out there such as Glamour who have stayed the same and still out-sell others.

Publishing director of Glamour Jamie Jouning told the Press Gazette: “Glamour is pleased to retain its position as the best-selling title in the market by 8%, despite being twice the price.”(5).

As well as Glamour managing to sustain audiences, there are many other magazines out there whose sales haven’t declined – particularly niche magazines. Niche magazines will still be around no matter what because there will always be a market for magazines about people’s hobbies, such as cooking and knitting.

In conclusion, printed magazines are not dead yet but their circulation is rapidly falling and the industry is changing. In years to come there may be very few magazines left other than those who are niche.

(1) http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/uk-magazines-lose-print-sales-average-63-cent-full-abc-breakdown-all-503-titles

(2) http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/full-2015-mag-abcs-breakdown-cosmopolitan-bucks-trend-uk-magazines-decline-average-4-cent/

(3) http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/mag-abcs-price-cut-and-give-away-copies-help-cosmopolitan-lead-growth-womens-fashion-and-lifestyle/

(4) https://www.journalism.co.uk/news-commentary/the-magazine-market-isn-t-dead-it-s-different/s6/a698229/

(5) http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/mag-abcs-price-cut-and-give-away-copies-help-cosmopolitan-lead-growth-womens-fashion-and-lifestyle/

What to include in a statement of intent

Sources – identify them. Who? Type of source

Outline key areas – ethical and social issues

Formulate an argument 

Break it all down:

  • Proposed title
  • Objectives
  • Background
  • Details of the research 
  • Potential outcomes
  • Timeline of research – what you’re intending to do
  • Research subjects
  • Primary sources
  • Reading list
  • Conclusion

Sources for academic writing 

When looking for sources it’s important to think about:

  • Authority – expertise, practitioners, academics
  • Currency – value, time
  • Accuracy
  • Bias

Different types of sources are:

  • Primary 
  • Textbooks/books
  • Frontline literature – academic journals, reports
  • The web

How can journalism survive the decline of print and what are the dangers of a growing democratic deficit in local reporting?

Staff levels are now decreasing at local papers and print circulation and revenues are falling. It was reported that the total number of “national newspapers sold in the UK fell from an average of 7.6m a day to just over 7m between March 2014 and March 2015, a decline of 7.6%”(1).
Due to the number of people working in the industry falling, journalism is at risk of completely turning into churnalism. This is a term that was “coined by author Nick Davies to describe poor practices of modern day journalists”(2). It’s “a form of journalism in which press releases, wire stories, and other forms of pre-packages material are used to create articles”(3). The reason why churnalism is become more of a common practice for journalists, is because they now have less time and resources. Churnalism is a lazy way to find content for publications. This is quite dangerous because it could cause the press to enforce propaganda, by not investigating into matters thoroughly and holding people to account.
For print organisations to survive, they are now having to move away from print and onto other platforms. Most of the press has now moved onto digital platforms. By being online, it allows the press reach out to wider audiences.”More platforms mean better ways of connecting people with their passions”(4). It also reduces the cost of printing for publications, as there is no need for them to circulate as widely. “Declining sales do not mean the end for glossies”(5).