01 October 2012

Time Out London Is Dead, Long Live Time Out London

When you buy a Groupon deal, even if you feel like you're getting a great bargain, somehow the house always seems to win. About 18 months ago I bought a deal for a one-year subscription to Time Out's London edition, which, at £35, seemed like a reasonable enough price for me--a sporadic reader, at best--to hit the button. When my year was up, I was going to cancel the subscription but they let me renew at the same rate, and I decided that I got more than £35 of value from the magazine, even though most if not all of their content is available online. 

I liked having it all in a magazine format, which I could peruse on a Wednesday evening. I also liked the feeling of being a Time Out subscriber. It was like a badge of pride: I care about my city and enjoy finding out about all of the weird and wonderful things going on in London. I liked the features and read all of the film, shopping, food and drink, and around town sections each week, and leafed through the others. I wasn't one of those people who protested when they tried to axe the TV section earlier in the year, although maybe I should have seen it as a warning.

n00b (L) and old skool (R) versions of Time Out

When I read in the Guardian a couple of months ago that Time Out London would be going free, the first thing I did was call the latter to find out what this meant for subscribers. They weren't expecting the news to leak so soon and couldn't tell me anything helpful (I work in a busy press office, so I can sympathise). A couple of weeks ago, I found out their best offer: I can either continue to receive the (now free) magazine in the post until the end of my subscription in April, plus three bonus months, or I can have the rest of my money back. I object to paying for a magazine I can pick up for free from the bus stops near my home and my office, but equally, my refund would only amount to £15, so I'll probably stay subscribed and then cancel at the end of my subscription.

Size matters...

As for the new magazine, I did think it was clever to make the first issue about all the free things you can do in London; they also had a load of competitions to win their favourite free stuff. The magazine itself is both bigger and thinner and the paper quality isn't as good. There are a lot more adverts, although most of them are for gigs, plays, and other events that might previously have appeared in the much-culled listings sections. The content in the new issue doesn't bug me too much: my favourite sections are still there, albeit in a somewhat abbreviated form, and although the articles are less meaty, I actually quite like lists and bullet points. In fact, the new and, well, different Time Out feels a lot like a more gender-neutral version of Shortlist, the free lad mag distributed in London on Thursday mornings.

Don't get me wrong, I'll still enjoy reading Time Out Lite, but it's definitely a shadow of its former self. And that is a crying shame.

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