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The Market Likes The Economist Much More Than I Do

Posted by: Jon Fine on June 22, 2009

Many media types routinely namecheck The Economist as a favorite magazine. I am not among them. Yes, The Economist is global and comprehensive and all that, but more often than not the tone strikes me as smug and, good Lord, it is not a particularly energizing read.

But while I may be convinced that that the Economist’s admiredness-to-actually-being-read ratio tops that of every other magazine on the planet, including The New Yorker—a magazine I do actually read, but is notorious for existing primarily in unread piles atop nighttables—The Economist is managing the feat of bettering its business in an absolutely gruesome market.

For the year ending March 31, sayeth

Economist Group posted operating profits 26 percent higher than last year at £56 million and revenue 17 percent better revenue of £313 million.

The profit numbers were boosted, the company admits, by layoffs. But the revenue growth is what surprises me. You don’t hear many stories like among old-media companies these days, regardless of the dismissive things said about your primary product by certain irritable media columnists.

Reader Comments


June 22, 2009 4:42 PM

In the 1970s in Bethesda, MD my scout troop had a newspaper recycling program. I used to poach the magazines from it and try as I might I just couldn't get into The Economist.

My magazine that sits atop the night stand unread is definitely The Harvard Business Review. It just looks so good coming in...


June 24, 2009 5:33 PM

There's no doubt about it -- I eventually stopped reading Time, Newsweek, US News when I first read The Economist some time around 1990. Each week, I always find some jewel (pardon the New Yorker) that makes me LOL in its pages. Plus, isn't it funny how Anglo-American capitalism takes a global beating, that the world is turning more and more to one of its primary mouthpieces (this publication long warned against our recent age of hubris, even as it may have profited along the way)? Sometimes I wish The Economist editors controlled the world's markets and governments -- it really makes sense in a world somehow too susceptible to intolerance, polemics, financial shenanigans, belligerence, protectionism and other sins that get in the way of liberalism and human progress.


June 25, 2009 7:47 PM

Michael Hirschorn has an excellent article about the Economist, and its envious rivals, in The Atlantic:
"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...In the digital age, razor-sharp clarity and definition are the keys to success. Knowing what and who you are, and conveying that idea to an audience, is the only way to break through to readers ADD’ed out on an infinitude of choices. General-interest is out; niche is in."

On a side note take a look at the Economist homepage and compare it to BW's new (unfortunate) look. Theirs is much more bloglike, and highlights content, making it easily accessible.

BW stuck with a printlike Table of Contents formula that unfortunately hides the vast majority of content at the bottom of the page. The Economist understands, both in print and online, that there is great value in the unique content and smug voice it creates.

Jason Dojc

July 3, 2009 4:10 PM

Premium magazines or those perceived as premium (and you certainly are suggesting that the Economist falls into that category) will survive the upcoming magazine shakeout.

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