Economist publisher: print decline exaggerated

The decline of print has been much exaggerated, according to the publisher of The Economist, Andrew Rashbass, as news weeklies proved their mettle in the latest ABC figures.

The UK edition of the weekly business and finance title saw a year-on-year increase of 6.6 per cent, increasing its circulation to 172,842 – doubling its print circulation over a decade – while, according to Rashbass, quality daily newspapers are down more than 10 per cent over the same period.

Talking exclusively to Press Gazette, Rashbass said: ‘There are segments in the marketplace in which we sit that are doing extraordinarily well, in print and online and in other media.

‘I think the reason for that is that affluent, educated, curious-minded people still want to consume what we call the ‘ritual pleasure’ of learning about the world in print.”

Rashbass said that in a world where competition for people’s time is up against an increasing number of distractions, The Economist has created a product that its readers are making time for, a ‘four-course gourmet dinner”, while other print products are left competing in the ‘snacking’world where more competition comes from online media.

Unlike newspapers, magazines are a young person’s medium, says Rashbass. Although not linked to anyone on the magazine, The Economist has a Facebook group with nearly 10,000 members, in which, he says, you can find young people talking passionately about the magazine.

‘I come across quotes where people are saying ‘Does anyone over the age of 35 read The Economist?’ There’s this feeling that it is fundamentally almost a radical read for young people,’he says.

The UK news weeklies sector has remained strong in this round of ABCs. As well as the rise in all The Economist’s editions, fellow business and finance title MoneyWeek saw a rise of seven per cent year-on-year, and the sector as a whole showed an increase of 14.3 per cent year-on-year.

The domestic news and current affairs sector saw an overall increase of 23.1 per cent year-on-year. The biggest increase was seen by The Week, the weekly news digest from Dennis Publishing, which has enjoyed continuous growth since its launch in 1995. This year’s figure of 143,700 signals a rise of 19 per cent year-on-year.

However, fewer than 10,000 of those sales came through the newsstand. But the title’s managing director, Kerin O’Connor, says that, like The Economist, The Week’s strength lies in making sure that it is part of the reader’s media life routine.

‘This market is characterised by one-to-one relationships. News weeklies become a habit, so it’s much easier to build up that relationship if readers do not have to go to the newsstand every week,’he says.

‘Successful news weeklies are characterised by their ability to write opinion and analysis and point-of-view, and I don’t think that’s where consumer interest is diminishing.”

The next big thing in the news weekly market could be the BBC’s Newsbrief, the yet-to-be-launched news digest which has already been compared to The Week because of its similar format. But where it is likely to differ is in using high-profile BBC journalists as contributors and its particular editorial line on events. It will also benefit from being part of one of the most recognisable brands in the world. If and when Newsbrief gets the green light, it will be the most significant title to come from the corporation’s stable since Top Gear magazine.

Publisher of The Week, Seth Hawthorne, says that as long as Newsbrief finds its own niche, there will be room for the BBC title.

‘The news weekly market is actually quite complementary, so The Week, The Economist,

The Spectator and Newsweek all sit together quite comfortably.

‘It’s not like the battle that’s going on on the newsstand in the men’s market or in women’s monthly magazines – it’s a different market.”

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