Magazine A-List 2009

The Economist Is No. 4 on Ad Age's Magazine A-List

North American Edition Experiments With Sampling, Increases Subscribers

By Published on .

NEW YORK ( -- Ouch. Ad pages in the issues through Sept. 26 declined 23.4%, according to the Media Industry Newsletter. Good thing for The Economist this isn't the A List of 1999.

Last year's Magazine of the Year, The North American edition of The Economist, again proved itself a brand worth honors, in print and online, particularly for innovative thinking in marketing itself -- and asking readers to pay their share of the freight.

Figure out what readers will pay for, and then make it easy for them to do so.
John Mickelthwait
Paul Rossi
The Economist, for example, recently introduced weekly text messages that include links to a site where New Yorkers can get the new issue delivered to their homes overnight at no extra cost. The title plans to expand the trial to cover the whole U.S. -- and add the capacity, now being tested in London, for recipients to merely reply with a text saying "Buy" to get their copy rush-delivered.

"One of the strategies of The Economist has been to get copies into people's hands, to get trial, to get sampling, to get people closer to the magazine," North America Publisher Paul Rossi told Ad Age as the text service rolled out. "This is an extension. We don't see it necessarily as cannibalizing newsstand, but it's just another way for another group of people to get a copy."

Who else is doing anything like that?

In another move that's bolder than you see at most magazines, or at newspapers, despite all their talk, The Economist has raised a paywall on its website that surrounds all content from the print edition. Unlike some magazines that try to reinforce print sales by putting very little online, The Economist is letting readers choose: Online-only access is also available, for a robust $95 annual fee. And it's still providing plenty of free content on the site -- although the 12-month window to read it without paying has been reduced to 90 days.

1. Women's Health
2. Better Homes & Gardens
3. Family Circle
4. The Economist
5. People
6. Essence
7. The Week
8. Backpacker
9. Cosmopolitan
10. National Geographic
The Economist has strong bragging rights for its paid circulation dynamics too. Newsstand sales fell 6.6%, a smaller decline than seen across magazines as an industry, while paid subscriptions shot up 10%. Despite the newsstand falloff, that meant The Economist's paid circulation topped 800,000 copies in North America for the first time. Those subscribers aren't unprofitable bait for advertisers either, along the old lines of the magazine business. Signing up for a new one-year subscription runs $126.99.

And about that 23.4% ad-page decline, for what it's worth: The drop wasn't much worse than elsewhere. Weeklies as a whole fell 22.7% in the same period. Newsweek's ad pages fell 34%; Time lost 21.3%. If The Economist keeps doing so many things right, we're confident it will enter 2010 in great position to recoup any advertising the recession took away.

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