Why Time and Newsweek Will Never Be The Economist

Matt Pressman – Vanity Fair

Copyright Vanity Fair
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#2. There aren’t that many readers up for grabs
There’s a limited market for what The Economist offers, and they’ve already claimed the vast majority of it. As media columnist Jon Friedman wrote last year, “there are only so many Americans smart enough to enjoy [The Economist’s] articles.” I disagree with Friedman slightly. Reading The Economist is not like reading Thomas Pynchon—the articles are short and straightforward, and they never use a 50-cent word when a five-cent word will do. The real problem isn’t intelligence but interest; there are only so many Americans who actually care about international news. Sure, we like to read about wars and disasters and scandals, but we don’t need a weekly update on Japan’s political malaise or the energy business in Brazil. And although The Economist’s U.S. audience has grown impressively, it started from an extremely low baseline (ten years ago its North American circulation was barely 300,000) and is still nowhere near Time in terms of circulation. As former Economist editor Bill Emmott told The Guardian in 2005, “We will never be a direct competitor to Time or Newsweek.”
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