Posts Tagged ‘The Economist’

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The meaning of “liberal”

August 21, 2009

Writer Andreas Kluth, discussing the Michael Hirschorn article on The Economist that I quoted in an earlier post, says this about Hirschorn’s attempt to define The Economist‘s political slant:

This is the American part of any article about us, which is always amusing, since there is a one-word synonym for the convoluted phrase “free-market right-center, if you want to be technical about it; with a dose of left-center social progressivism”: That word is liberal. [emphasis in original]

I think he’s right, and I also think that when “liberal” defines the left edge of mainstream American politics (let’s disregard the asinine “socialist” name-calling by the clueless and the deliberately misleading), it’s no wonder that economic progressives in this country often feel completely marginalized. One of the things that an instructor said to me once that has stuck with me ever since is, “there is no such thing as left-wing politics in America.” Overstatement perhaps, but pretty close to being functionally true, and something which we have certainly been seeing played out this year.

Flying Whale

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The Economist stays on the cutting edge

August 13, 2009

Michael Hirschorn, in The Atlantic, had a great article recently about how news magazines are dying a slow and painful death, with one very prominent exception: The Economist.

Unlike its rivals, The Economist has been unaffected by the explosion of digital media; if anything, the digital revolution has cemented its relevance. The Economist has become an arbiter of right-thinking opinion (free-market right-center, if you want to be technical about it; with a dose of left-center social progressivism) at a time when arbiters in general are in ill favor. It is a general-interest magazine for an ever-increasing audience, the self-styled global elite, at a time when general-interest anything is having a hard time interesting anybody. And it sells more than 75,000 copies a week on U.S. newsstands for $6.99 (!) at a time when we’re told information wants to be free and newsstands are disappearing.

Hirschorn seems to think that the reasons for The Economist‘s continued success are a combination of quality of reporting and, oddly, the publication’s total lack of online savvy. Because the magazine’s website was so behind the curve, it “remains primarily a print product, and it is valued accordingly.” Meanwhile, other news magazines provide tons of free content, which draws viewers but not revenue.

The idea that The Economist is so far behind is a bit suspect, though. They’ve been making podcasts for a while now, downloadable for free for subscribers or a considerable fee for non-subscribers, in which you can listen to stories read aloud in their entirety. This feature is built out pretty well and, at least anecdotally, seems to be pretty popular.

Now, there’s Economist Direct, in which UK residents can order a copy of the current issue of the magazine (online or by text message) and have it delivered to their door the next day, for the newsstand cover price. I’m curious to see if this becomes a parallel to the experience of Amazon Prime (free two-day shipping on everything) radically changing participants’ consumption patterns.

Flying Whale