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How The Economist is bucking the print downturn

How The Economist is bucking the print downturn

By Clark Turner 

It’s generally accepted that traditional print media is on the wane. Official Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) figures consistently show that for the majority of newspapers and magazines sales are on the slide.

But it’s not all bad news. There are some publications that are bucking the trend, one being The Economist.

Established in 1843 to campaign on the great political issues of the day, The Economist still remains true to its original principles today.

Positioning itself as a ‘must read’ for smart and curious people around the world,  it aims to be the premier source for the analysis of world business and current affairs, providing authoritative insight and opinion on international news, world politics, business, finance, science and technology.

On top of that it offers overviews of cultural trends and regular industry, business and country special reports.

The Economist currently has a worldwide circulation figure of over 1.3 million, up 9.1 per cent year-on-year. Growth has been consistent across individual global markets led by the North American market – up by 12.8 per cent.

In the UK the newspaper sells 181,374 copies every week – up 6.7 per cent year-on-year.

The reason, the publication claims, is a demand among the educated and affluent for intelligent news, analysis and entertainment that challenges, amuses and informs.

“Like any marketer we’re faced with the same internal challenges such as protecting our budget and delivering results,” explained the Economist’s Global Marketing Director, Susan Clark (pictured). “But we also face external challenges, similarly to any other marketer.

“In recent times we’ve focused on building a strong brand in the UK but now we’re looking outside that.”

In building a brand presence in the market, The Economist uses a full array of tools – from brand advertising through retained advertising agency AMV BBDO and direct mail to paid placement in newsstands backed by POS and posters.

“Keeping readers ultimately lies with our editorial colleagues who work to consistently deliver engaging content,” said Clark.

Readers everywhere get the same editorial matter. The advertisements differ. The running order of the sections, and sometimes the cover, also differ. But the words are the same, except that each week readers in Britain get a few extra pages devoted to British news.

“Number one for us in marketing is customer service, she added. “We work so that our teams can transfer customers’ subscriptions to wherever they may travel in the world and ensure a good delivery of product.”

Key communication messages involve The Economist’s broadening of position. The newspaper’s original focus was on business success but a shift has occurred on the back of research that showed readers want information and a global perspective on current affairs.

The publication operates an extensive research programme adopting an econometric model in the UK. “It keeps the CFO happy,” Clark admitted.

Research is used to determine how the brand is perceived and on how readers relate to it; on why they might buy from a newsstand rather than by subscription. Syndicated research is also used to throw light on advertising issues.

Marketing is then adapted to meet the challenges and demands of different markets globally.

“There are some territories where we are well known and have huge awareness, such as the UK,” Clark revealed. “In the US and Europe we might change the logo in sign off or have a visible masthead to clearly indicate the publication is a magazine.

“It’s important we retain our global brand positioning but we adapt it locally to different markets on the back of research, with a global creative library available online.”

The Economist print offering is supported online through its website, which is also used as a sampling tool. Full access is free to subscribers as well as an audio edition.

“We have different on and offline teams working closely together in each region so al our efforts are aligned,” Clark said. “Ultimately though online is a speciality skill.”

So what of the future?

“I have to believe that we will remain relevant whether that means embracing new media and other channels,” she concluded. “Across the world, there is a group of people united not by age or demographics, but by how they think and how they look at things.

“They are as interested in ‘why’ as ‘what’; they will pick up a stone to see what’s under it; they delight in the new, the surprising and the unorthodox. These are the people who read The Economist.”

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