How The Economist faces today, and thrives

How The Economist faces today, and thrives

A strategy of putting readers first is paying dividends for the venerable news magazine The Economist, described as a "views paper not a newspaper" by circulation head, Marina Haydn.

The executive vice president and managing director of circulation says the 176 year-old weekly sees itself as a "progress publication" covering major issues, and with an open future.

A "reader-first" circulation model enables readers to choose how they consume the content - just good business sense really - and has led to reader revenue growing 50 per cent and readers now numbering 1.6 million. Just under half want The Economist in a digital form, just over half want it in print, but all want value, she says, urging, "listen to the customer's wants and needs, give it to them and in turn this brings value to our business."

Her team of 120 in circulation is part of the 340-strong commercial department, in a business in which more than 1000 people work on print and digital content, three apps, an audio edition and weekly podcasts, and "endless graphics" for the social media offerings.

These are a story in themselves, as the magazine has 45.5 million followers on social media, with Twitter as top platform, followed by Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, increasing social traffic by 70 per cent in the past six months.

"We have strong brand awareness and know, by research, that we can charge a premium price if we deliver all they want," Haydn says.

Upping prices in March this year by 20 per cent brought a substantial boost, but with price increases rare, "we make it substantial when we do.

"We never discount digital subscriptions - it is always similar to print because (readers) are paying for the quality of the content, not the method of distribution."

Those who have both subs - print and digital - spend more time with the content than those with just one, research has revealed.

"We want readers to pay and stay, so our 'registration wall' is vital," she says. Readers can register for five articles a month and receive newsletters, as do one million readers, but they need to register each time and this leads to the boost in subscriptions.

"Focussing on the customer, product development, pricing and marketing all drives revenue and thus growth."

An enthusiastic audience seemed to agree.

Maggie Coleman