OLD Media Moves

Business coverage core to The Economist

November 7, 2007

Posted by Chris Roush

David Hirschman of MediaBistro talked to The Economist editor in chief John Micklethwait about his job and how the magazine covers certain topics.

Here is an excerpt:

John MicklethwaitWhile business pervades most of the sections of The Economist, the magazine has also spread out quite a bit over the past few years, and there is much more arts, science, and culture. Will these be expanded even further? And how do you see the relationship of the magazine toward business, generally?

Business is absolutely core. We have someone around here who calls our business coverage “the engine room” of The Economist. He jokes of that, but it’s absolutely key. Not only do we have a lot of business people who read us, but we think you can make business interesting and provocative as well to people who aren’t necessarily in business themselves. We’re not all about business, but economics is a useful discipline in that it forces you to pare things down to what really matters. But that doesn’t stop us from having a lot of fun. We have a lot of people remark on the obituaries, for instance when we have obituaries of parrots and that sort of thing.

Who do you see as your main competitors? Is it business magazines? Time and Newsweek? The Week?

All of the above. The “cute” answer I give that our main competitor is “time”; not the magazine, but people’s time. 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?” It’s that sort of thing. 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.

Read more here.

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