OLD Media Moves

Kiplinger Letter celebrating 90th anniversary

September 16, 2013

Posted by Chris Roush

The Kiplinger Letter is celebrating 90 years of weekly economic and political predictions later this month.

The Kiplinger Letter pioneered a concise, telegraphic style that was widely emulated by other publications in the decades to follow. In the Letter’s “sweep-line” style, key points are underlined at the start of each line, which ends in hard punctuation on the right margin. (Tweeters take note: Two lines of a Kiplinger Letter total about 140 characters.)

The Letter’s notable financial forecasts include the stock market crash of 1929, the post-World War II boom and inflation, the bursting of the tech stock bubble in 2000, and the strong recovery of stock prices from the depths of the 2008-‘09 bear market.

With the exception of President Truman’s 1948 comeback defeat of Thomas Dewey, the Letter has correctly called every presidential election since 1924. The Kiplinger organization is strictly nonpartisan, never endorsing any candidate or program and avoiding wishful thinking that would taint its forecasts.

But more than its political and market forecasts, “it is the Letter’s practical advice for business managers on their day-to-day decisions that has kept the Letter relevant and valued for 90 years,” said editor in chief Knight Kiplinger in  a statement. “We don’t have a crystal ball; we base our forecasts on solid reporting with the savviest sources we can find, and our readers reward us with very strong renewal of their subscriptions.”

The Letter is also known for not identifying or quoting its sources, a practice which encourages public officials to give Kiplinger their most honest and candid judgments (which sometimes differ from their public statements).

Newspaper journalist W. M. Kiplinger, who had covered economic policy in the Woodrow Wilson administration for the Associated Press, crafted the first issue on his Underwood manual typewriter.

Five hundred copies of the first Letter — with an enclosed subscription order — were mailed on Sept. 29, 1923, to clients of the “business intelligence” agency Kiplinger had founded three years before. An annual subscription cost $10, or the equivalent of $140 in today’s dollars, compared with the Letter’s current subscription price of $117.

The Kiplinger Letter has a paid weekly circulation of 116,000 — and pass-along readership in America’s offices probably several times that. It is the flagship publication of a media company that includes Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine (the first magazine on personal money management, founded in 1947, now at 600,000 circulation); The Kiplinger Tax Letter (96,000 circulation); the fast-growing Kiplinger.com Web site; and several other business and personal-finance publications.

Knight Kiplinger is the third generation of the Kiplinger family to edit the Letter, following his grandfather, who died in 1967, and his father, Austin, who is editor emeritus at age 95.

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