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Economist Proves Its Point With ABC Report: Readers Pay for Quality Content

Published on May 01, 2012

The Economist and the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) have announced that “The Economist” is the first weekly magazine to release a Consolidated Media Report (CMR).

In January, The Economist slammed the brakes on the “everything is free” ethos, when the magazine’s Managing Director for the Americas Paul Rossi called the free or lower-cost digital model “suicide.” Rossi told the crowd at the Digiday Publishing Summit that “It makes no sense in my mind if you think a mag on a newsstand has a [value] to a reader of $4.99 that you sell that to a reader digitally for 99 cents or $1.99…I don’t understand the logic.” Rossi also addressed the problem of digital advertising not coming close to replacing print revenue—partly because he felt that lower- or no-cost content devalues digital ad placements.

The Economist’s CMR contains information on all of its branded assets, including its print journal, tablet app, website, e-newsletters and social media channels, and they are fairly impressive:

  • Print and digital circulation: 893,208
  • Economist app total unique devices: 255,425
  • Average digital subscription price: $105.11
  • Total page views for The Economist online: 14,914,663
  • Total monthly unique browsers: 3,592,114
  • E-newsletter net distributions: 16,407,019
  • Social media interactions for Facebook; 1,009,815, Twitter; 2,279,796, YouTube; 502,118, Tumblr; 43,007, LinkedIn; 23,003

“With the rise of digital reading, marketers want to understand how readers are interacting with magazines beyond the print form,” said Rossi. Referring to the CMR, he added that “While not perfect, we believe it’s a positive first step to show advertisers our brand footprint and to help them make comparisons across platforms and titles.”

ABC’s theory behind a CMR is to provide a single resource for advertisers and media buyers to understand a publication’s reach across both print and digital platforms, through a single, independently verified resource. Two monthlies, Popular Science and Fine Cooking, have also issued reports. The Economist is only the third magazine to publish a CMR.

The news may not be all rosy for Economist: Its own press release boilerplate claims "a growing global circulation (now 1.5 million including both print and digital)," per ABC figures for July through December 2011.  Somehow between then and now, and with the more stringent CMR analysis, that figure has dropped to 893,208. But the apps and emails (and an online price of $105.11) still qualify it as a success story, by any measure.