Thursday, July 16, 2009

Economics of The Economist

In a time when print media is going the way of beepers, The Economist is holding its own:
Unlike its rivals, The Economist has been unaffected by the explosion of digital media; if anything, the digital revolution has cemented its relevance. The Economist has become an arbiter of right-thinking opinion (free-market right-center, if you want to be technical about it; with a dose of left-center social progressivism) at a time when arbiters in general are in ill favor. It is a general-interest magazine for an ever-increasing audience, the self-styled global elite, at a time when general-interest anything is having a hard time interesting anybody. And it sells more than 75,000 copies a week on U.S. newsstands for $6.99 (!) at a time when we’re told information wants to be free and newsstands are disappearing.
But why?
The Economist prides itself on cleverly distilling the world into a reasonably compact survey. Another word for this is blogging, or at least what blogging might be after it matures—meaning, after it transcends its current status as a free-fire zone and settles into a more comprehensive system of gathering and presenting information. As a result, although its self-marketing subtly sells a kind of sleek, mid-last-century Concorde-flying sangfroid, The Economist has reached its current level of influence and importance because it is, in every sense of the word, a true global digest for an age when the amount of undigested, undigestible information online continues to metastasize. And that’s a very good place to be in 2009.

True, The Economist virtually never gets scoops, and the information it does provide is available elsewhere … if you care to spend 20 hours Googling. But now that information is infinitely replicable and pervasive, original reporting will never again receive its due. The real value of The Economist lies in its smart analysis of everything it deems worth knowing—and smart packaging, which may be the last truly unique attribute in the digital age.
And you thought blogging wouldn't last.


  1. Could it be that the Economist is doing well because the economy is bad? I mean if you own milk magazine, and suddenly a global milk crisis hits, won't your sales go up?

    Also the Economist has a very strong cult following of wealthy, intelligent conservatives.

    Maybe that's too simplistic of a viewpoint.

  2. I wonder how Business Week's subscriptions have gone? Is there a way to find that out?

  3. I don't think the Economist's sales have gone up because the economy has gone down. I think the market audience can still afford a subscription whereas other magazines and newspapers have a less wealthy base.

    Also, the Economist provides insightful knowledge about the world where some magazines (People, US weekly) are pure entertainment.

    The main following of the Economist is more moderate than you think. I have a subscription and many of the articles in there are quite left-leaning (particularly the ones bashing Bush and their official recommendation for Obama over McCain). Its a great UK magazine reflecting on primarily American and World politics/economics. Socially liberal, economically conservative.


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.