Tracking The Economist’s success

EconomistCirculationChartWe have a new, moderately interactive and even somewhat interesting “widget” on our website that gives all sorts of circulation data, by region, country and so forth.

It continues to amaze me, like everybody else, that we at The Economist keep growing when everybody else, with a few exceptions, is suffering.

The growth continues to come disproportionately from North America, as you can see on the left.

Worldwide, circulation has doubled in the past decade to about 1½ million a week now (which = about 3 million readers, since every copy tends to get “passed along”).

I joined a dozen years ago, so everything I write now reaches more than twice as many people as it did back then. I will continue to ponder this mystery, the sausage factory I work in, and the world around it. One day I will have an answer.

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8 thoughts on “Tracking The Economist’s success

  1. I just recently bought a subscription to the Economist. I was bumming off my room mate but when he moved out I eventually decided to get my own subscription. This is the first magazine subscription I have ever bought and so far it has been worth it. 🙂

  2. Perhaps the Economist’s success is it’s global perspective, that it’s not American, and that it exudes a quaint Dickensian eccentricity. There is nothing else quite like the Economist. So it has a niche.

    And it may have something else: Simplicity – that is, you can find your way around the Economist easily, and you get what you want – a summary of what’s gone on in the world in the last seven days, written simply. No fluff. Meat and potatoes.

    I thought about this after I read this piece about how gadgets become more complex the longer they are on the market, thus frustrating the buyer. The writer calls it “features creep”.

    This dynamic may also apply to magazines to their detriment. In his extolling of the virtues of simplicity, this writer could be you.

    http://www.economist.com/sciencetechnology/displayStory.cfm?story_id=14248430

    The piece contained a quote from Antoine de Saint Exupéry which I love, for it applies as much to writing as to gadgets: Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

    • I love the link, Jag! Stuff that I’m thinking about every day at the moment, as a writer for magazine editors during the day and for a book editor by night.

      On the list of difference, Numbers 1, 7 and 9 ring the loudest bell:

      1. … the slow pace [in book editing vs magazine editing]

      …. Added David Hirshey, who was the longtime deputy editor of Esquire before joining HarperCollins in 1998: “In a monthly magazine, you work four to six weeks out. In books, four to six weeks are some people’s idea of lunch.”…

      6. …proposals that sound like great books but are actually just magazine pieces.

      … You read a great magazine piece and think, ‘Wow, this could be a great book,’ then you turn it into a book and you think, ‘Wow, I just published a bloated magazine piece.’”

      7. Coming up with titles for books involves a different art form.

      Mr. Hirshey again: “A great magazine headline does not necessarily work on a book. Esquire’s most famous headline, ‘Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,’ would probably be given the artful book title ‘Sinatra.’”

  3. Words per dollar. By this metric the only thing that comes close to the Economist and the NYT is the phone book. Whose circulation I am sure is not growing.

    Nearly every other US city newspaper and news magazine has been publishing fewer words per dollar: shorter wire-service articles, lower grade level of writing, fewer articles overall. Oddly, fewer people feel that these are worth reading.

    To me this resembles the observation that if you want to have a more vibrant downtown shopping district you need to increase, not reduce, traffic congestion. Yet declining rural towns continue to build road bypasses.

    • Now I’m tempted to copy and paste every article of the current issue and do a word count, then divide by cover price. Well, that would take too long.

      What’s a phone book?

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