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Country Standard Time goes web only

Friday, March 27, 2009 – Country Standard Time is going web only, suspending publication of the 16-year-old magazine. The lack of advertising for the free magazine was cited by owner Jeffrey B. Remz as the reason for closing Country Standard Time magazine.

"I tell people that I'm in two bad businesses - music and magazines," Remz said Friday. The music industry has long been mired in declining CD sales. That also has led to sharp cutbacks industry-wise in advertising. As a free magazine, Boston-area based Country Standard Time was dependent upon advertising.

The last two years have been particularly difficult in the advertising realm, which decreased markedly, according to Remz.

He was bullish on the web site. "We have experienced tremendous growth in readership, particularly in the past two years," he said. "We worked very hard to make the web site a must read for fans from around the world."

The web site attracts about 65,000 unique visitors per month. Revenues have increased as well through advertising.

"It is obviously an incredibly difficult time out there for everybody whether musician, label or reader," said Remz. "Record labels fold, and CD sales continue tanking, but there is still a lot of tremendous music being released, and that is what moves us and always has."

"Hopefully, we can also see our way through to better monetize the web, not an easy task," said Remz. "We will need the support of our readers and the music industry. And we are considering ideas to expand the web site further."

Country Standard Time always has been an independent venture with no outside funding. Remz conceived the idea for the magazine during a period when country music was becoming increasingly popular with the first issue in July/August 1993 with McBride & The Ride on the cover. At the time, there were six magazines based in New England and one in upstate New York covering country music.

That was during the line dance craze. Once that died down, so did the magazines, leaving CST as the lone magazine standing in the region. However, the downturn in the popularity of country also led to deciding to distribute CST nation-wide. The magazine was available in live music clubs, ranging from the Station Inn in Nashville to Billy Bob's in Fort Worth, Texas, The Birchmere in Arlington, Va. and the Rodeo Bar in New York City. Record stores carrying the magazine included Ernest Tubb Record Shops in Nashville, Newbury Comics in New England and Waterloos in Austin, Texas.

The country and bluegrass music magazine field has steadily shrunken in the past few years. The only country music magazine is Country Weekly, which got rid of its approximately 330,000 subscribers last month, and is only available at retail outlets. Bluegrass Unlimited is the key player in bluegrass with Bluegrass Now having folded both in print and on line. In the roots/Americana field, No Depression closed last year and recently completely revamped its web site to forego paid writers. Harp magazine, which also covered Americana to an extent, shut down as well.

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