Files under John Micklethwait, THE ECONOMIST, internet | Nov 9th


Some recent, provocative quotes from John Micklethwait, editor in chief of The Economist (newsstand sales have gone up 107 percent since 2000, and the magazine now reaches a total audience of 1.8 million):


People have very busy lives, particularly the sort of people who tend to buy The Economist.

You are trying to squeeze into their life, and you have to make that worthwhile, because often I think the choice is not between us and BusinessWeek, or The New Republic, or the LA Times; it’s more, “Are you going to spend 10 minutes grazing on the Internet or are you going to watch a soccer match on the internet, or are you going to watch a film?”

You have to come up with something as challenging, interesting, and provocative enough to demand someone’s time.

You don’t really think too much about the competition, because in the end it’s just about producing something interesting and relevant to people.


One thing we’re doing is just increasing the amount of daily content [online], so that people can come back every day and find something worthwhile. And we’ve done a lot to make sure the content online is at the same level as the content in the magazine, even while we’re introducing blogs and a rather good weekly correspondent’s diary from some distant part of the world.

One place on the Internet that we’ve done really well is in audio.

We’ve discovered that audio seems to do particularly well for us; we’ve had a big success in starting a weekly podcast.

And on top of that — and I think we’re alone in the world in doing this — we now offer a full audio version of The Economist online.

You can listen to the whole thing read by BBC newsreaders.

It’s a way of getting people used to experiencing The Economist in different ways; people who are jogging; people who are in cars; people who are cooking; people who are at the gym.

We remain provocatively paranoid about the Internet; you have to be thinking of ways in which you can deal with it.

When I first came on I thought of the Internet as this sort of hurricane coming right towards us, that had already hit newspapers and now would come to magazines, which were further ashore.

But now it seems to be sort of glancing magazines, rather than hitting directly.

It’s not true for all magazines — there are some that have been hit quite badly — but the sort of thing that we’re doing at the moment seems to be helping us rather than hurting us, because it’s putting so much more information out there.

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