SIPAlert Daily: Profile of Economist Reveals Key Fundamentals

There was an interesting profile of The Economist on the eMarketer website on Friday. The Q&A was with Nic Blunden, global publisher of Economist Digital. Some interesting takeaways:

  • For their digital edition and website, 70% of the revenue comes from advertising. A quick look at their homepage shows two Microsoft ads, an Accenture-sponsored “Featured Technology” spot, and six classified box ads on the bottom.
  • Other revenue sources: ebooks; a print product that’s moved into digital and charges on a paid download basis; app singles, “where, rather than just taking the weekly cut of The Economist content and putting that into a digital edition, we take a vertical slice, for example, around innovation, and put together our best content to use as a revenue-generating opportunity, either as a sponsorship or as a paid-for download.”
  • People will pay for a combination of content and experience. “The content we put into individual app singles is available online for free, but, if you put it together into a nice package that people can download and use on their iPad or iPhone, it creates enough value for the consumer that they’re willing to pay for it.”
  • “…we encourage our advertisers to think very creatively about how they want to represent their brand,” says Blunden. An Avis ad “uses the motion-detection capability of the iPad to change the way you interact with the device, which is a lovely way of exploiting the iPad’s rich potential.”
  • Blunden says readers feel that digital advertising “adds to their experience or doesn’t distract from it.” They’ve also developed a set of best-practice guidelines for their advertisers.

At the SIPA Miami Conference in December, Peter Sanderson of Wiley spoke about the same kind of slicing of verticals. “Say if we have a publication Mental Health Weekly and we want to then bundle the leadership content that we have. We then are creating a new product on mental health leadership.”

For this process, Wiley worked with Astek; they developed a new content management system (Webany) that makes this process much easier. “You can get [the content] in multiple versions, giving the reader the ability to read it however they want,” Sanderson said.

Again, he’s sounding the same notes as Blunden: valued information and an ease of process for the consumer. So much is about time these days and working your content and processes into customers’ workflows. That’s what has happened to newspapers. Their main time window was mornings, when we now check email and rush out of the house. Evenings? Maybe after we finish email again, walk the dog and put kids to bed. Maybe.

But if you can deliver that vertical so it shows up nicely on an iPad or iPhone, then that’s worth paying for. And sometimes more may not be better, despite what those cute commercials of the guy sitting around with the little kids say. It may just be distracting to get more information than the slice you’re looking for. And there are enough distractions out there.

As Blunden admits, all the available information – free and otherwise – makes editorial curating and analysis even more valuable. Sanderson has also reduced the time it takes to put out a newsletter from close to 3 hours to less than 1 hour. Content can be different every day. Information is fresh. Customers are happier. “It’s becoming like a New York Times-ish kind of feel,” he says.  And Google is even paying more attention.

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Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 as managing editor. Follow Ronn on Twitter at @RonnatSIPA

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