NME Readers Got A Taste Of Microsoft’s Sponsored Content And They Hated It

Blog: But Microsoft isn’t the real nme here, online advertising is surely necessary to survive?

We in technology circles are no strangers to branded, sponsored, or paid-for content. It’s how some websites work nowadays, you know, what with the Internet being free.

Here at TechWeekEurope we make it obvious if an article is what’s known as an advertorial. No one loses out. The reader knows, and they can read if they wish. The vendor gets an article about its services delivered to a large, relevant audience. And, in turn, the company that pays my salary gets a bit of cash. Win, win, win.

But last week, a blog post from newly-free NME magazine caused quite a stir. The offending article is here, titled: 10 Of The Best Debut Albums Of 2015. The blog post appears to be part of a series of four “best of” articles that all use Microsoft hardware and software.

Great, what’s not to like? We’ve got a bit of Wolf Alice, a bit of Gengahr and even some Girlpool.

Microsoft Cortana, Edge, and Groove

However, what got readers of the free, online NME website in a tizzy is the four mentions of Windows 10, along with the numerous allusions to using Microsoft’s Cortana, Edge, and Groove music software to listen to the albums.

“With so many album reviews on NME.com, we armed ourselves with Windows 10 on the lightning-fast Surface Pro 3 tablet, a device Microsoft promise can replace your laptop,” said the blog post.

“Thanks to a neat feature on the new Windows web browser Edge, we snapped multiple web pages to one screen and used the Surface Pen to draw all over them, circling and highlighting the heavy hitters.”

Here are some readers’ remarks pulled from Twitter:















But the criticism doesn’t stop with readers. An anonymous source at NME told me that even ex-writers at the magazine seem disgruntled with the Microsoft piece.

“Former NME journalists have criticised the article,” I was told.

I understand that Microsoft’s sponsored post could have been more subtly written, but are music fans not aware that their reading material has been branded, vetted, and sponsored for pretty much the entirety of music journalism? With ever declining magazine circulations and increasing use of online adblocking software, how else do you think sites like NME get some income? Because readers sure aren’t donating (but yes, they are actually, in the form of getting online advertorials like these lasered into their corneas).

The Microsoft post is even labelled as a sponsored post (TechWeekEurope is unclear as to whether this warning appeared on the original article), so readers surely should have read on at their own discretion.

A PR expert in the music industry, who regularly works with NME, told me this:

“Nobody wants to be tricked into reading an advertorial for something that they don’t feel has any relevance to an article entitled “10 of the best albums of 2015”. NME fans see them as a tastemaker and trust them as music experts, so I can imagine readers would be disappointed by an article like this.

“Having said that, we need to accept that we live in an age where the future of a magazine depends on them making money from sponsored posts like these – something a company would pay a lot more money for that an advert, as it’s using the voice of NME to sell their product. Does it compromise the integrity of NME? Well, I’d say the jury’s out.”

TechWeekEurope has contacted Microsoft for comment, but has yet to receive a reply. I do have this to say though: welcome to your new magazine, welcome to the age of free content, and welcome to the age of your dearly beloveds using any means necessary to circumvent the harrowing effects of adblocking software on media revenue.


It seems NME updated the blog post with the “sponsored” warning after the article was initially published. Would including it in the first place have changed reader opinion?