Is this the end of Readers Recommend?

Sad news that, barring a last-minute reprieve, The Guardian is calling time on the weekly Readers’ Recommend column.

For those not familiar with it, every Thursday evening the Guardian website puts up a post containing the week’s subject, for example “Songs about mountains“, and readers are asked to nominate songs in the comment section. It will always run to several hundred comments. The “Guru” of the week must read all the comments, listen to as many of the nominated songs as possible and assemble a playlist which will be published the following week.

It has been running for a decade now.

For the early years the Guru was one of The Guardian’s own writers, beginning with Dorian Lynskey who frustratingly never chose any of the songs I nominated. More recently there have been rotating volunteer Gurus selected from the community itself under the stewardship of Peter Kimpton, and that appears to have given the whole thing a new lease of life. It’s certainly drawn me back in and I’ve seen significantly more of my nominations make the playlist, including Panic Room and Mostly Autumn songs.

It’s spawned a remarkable and unique sub-community within The Guardian’s site. I cannot think of any other long-lasting music community that hasn’t been based around a shared love of particular band or genre; the tastes of the RR community is all over the map, and that is its greatest strength. It has one and only one cardinal rule, “thou shalt not rubbish anyone else’s taste“.

I have no idea why The Guardian have decided to pull the plug. It’s may be that The Guardian just don’t know quite what to do with something that’s a bit of an outlier compared to the rest of the site. Perhaps we don’t fit the 25-45 age group demographic that Guardian Music wants to target. Perhaps they just don’t like something they can’t gatekeep? Look at the disgraceful way they arbitrarily disqualified things from the Readers’ Album of the Year poll because it was the wrong sort of music nominated by the wrong sort of fans. RR just doesn’t back the mid-life-crisis consensus groupthink of too many of the paper’s own writers, so it has to go.

It’s being suggested that Readers Recommend doesn’t fit because Guardian Music is more interested in celebrity lifestyle reporting than in expressing deep passion for actual music. If you look at their writer’s picks for their best articles of the year, what appears to be the top two are both awful clickbait thinkpieces about Taylor Swift and Kanye West which are all about identity politics with little to say about the actual music. I’m sure there is a place for that sort of thing, but not at the expense of actual music writing.

It’s a shame. Readers Recommend is something unique and special, and I hope the extended community survives in some form. As I’ve always said, online forums and social media platforms come and go, but what endures and what really matters is the relationships you make through them.

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7 Responses to Is this the end of Readers Recommend?

  1. Ravi says:

    A bloody shame and what irks me more is the absolute disregard to readers’ feelings. If I get angry and dismayed even though I joined recently, I cannot imagine how this decision will affect the others who were integral to building it up and making it such a treasured spot on the Internet. And make to no mistake it is a rarity.

  2. bethnoir says:

    I agree with your well expressed sentiments. It felt as if the column’s days were numbered when they removed it from the print copy of the paper, then when they asked for contributors to compile and write the results up, but after the positive response from the community it is a bit perplexing to axe it now, when it’s still so vibrant and successful. I can’t see a reprieve happening, but I hope it does.

  3. Pingback: #SaveReadersRecommend: some updates | The 'Spill

  4. Tim Hall says:

    I do wonder if legal issues surrounding copyright is one factor.

    RR is dependent on people posting links to sites like YouTube and Soundcloud in the comments. If The Guardian has an actual or potential responsibility to vet these links to make sure they’re legit, that’s probably a bigger overhead than deleting trols on a typical clickbait thinkpiece.

    Linking to material on YouTube that’s not authorised by the artist or record company is a bit of a grey area, and I can imagine some record companues leaning on The Guardian to put a stop to it.

  5. Tim Hall says:

    There’s a post on The Guardian website from Michael Hann which gives some insight into the reasons.

    But 10 and a bit years, and several thousand songs later, we’re saying goodbye to it, after a run that is remarkable by the standards of any column. It’s been an incredible place – of generosity of spirit and knowledge, where reader talks unto reader and everyone comes away happy. However, the current way of doing things consumes a lot of time and energy at our end – which you don’t see – and we can’t keep it going in its familiar format.

    This may or may not confirm some of my speculations in the previous comment.

  6. bethnoir says:

    I think the new post on the Guardian offers some hope of some kind of continuation of RR, albeit in a different form, we’ll have to wait and see, I suppose. You could well be right in your speculation.

  7. Tim Hall says:

    With hindsight, they could have handled it a lot better than they have. The new post does imply they’d misjudged just how much RR means to a lot of people.

    Let’s hope whatever new thing they do preserves a lot of what was good about Readers Recommend.