In this excellent Neiman Lab interview, The Economist's deputy editor Tom Standage shares candid opinions about the competition and VC-backed upstarts, as well as thoughts on content localization, video, and The Economist's new Espresso app.
Standage boldly states that The Economist will happily take advertising dollars, but they don't see ad revenue as a sustainable model for the future; he thinks enterprises that are relying solely or mostly on ad revenue are in for a rude awakening. Like many of us, he suggests a new model may emerge, but in the meantime The Economist will continue to focus on its subscriber base. I also love his view that "print is just another device."
As a person focused on user experiences, however, what fascinated me most was this passage about content overload:
"The 'you've got to the end and now you've got permission to go do something else' is something you never get. You can never finish the Internet, you can never finish Twitter, and you can never really finish The New York Times, to be honest. So at its heart is that we have this very high density of information, and the promise we make to the reader is that if you trust us to filter and distill the news, and if you give us an hour and a half of your time — which is roughly how long people spend reading The Economist each week — then we'll tell you what matters in the world and what's going on. And if you only read one thing, we want to be the desert-island magazine. And our readers, that's what they say."
Standage says they're not trying to link everything to something else — presumably to get more ad views. Instead, they're promising their audience a finite, fulfilling, and ultimately definitive content experience. It's a somewhat anachronistic approach — I'm reminded of the days when the morning paper and the evening news were all most people got — and yet I suspect this approach will work for The Economist. There are many people suffering from content burnout (raises own hand), and some of those people have the means and desire to pay for a high-quality if finite news experience.
In a way, then, The Economist is not just offering the promise of high quality journalism, but the reassurance that what they're offering is all you need really need to know. In other words, they're offering peace of mind.
Hat tip to Will True for finding this gem.