30 jul The Economist, extreme centre since 1843
With a dull title and sometimes an over esoteric content, the British magazine is one of the few printed media to be in good health, especially in the United States. In 2010 The Economist sold 1,42 million copies each week, out of which 820.000 in the US alone. According to The New York Times, it is all about marketing: the elegance of the sober logo, good and daring (and funny) covers, an Oxbridge tone of voice (appealing to American snobs) and a fairly high price contribute to the social necessity to have the magazine on one’s desk if one is aspiring to -or already has- an important position and a high income. The Economist stands for intelligent, smart, different, courage and style. The magazine keeps up a positive mirror to the ruling classes by defending liberalism in all possible ways. It supported the war in Irak, condemned WikiLeaks and is in favour of the legalisation of drugs. ‘It is lonely at the top, but at least we have something to read’, was a slogan The Economist used in an advertising campaign in 2007. In that same year The Economist told the world that 20% of its readers in the US owns a wine cellar with French bottles and that 4,7% spent more than $ 3000.- on a watch. The average income of the magazine’s US readers is $ 166.626.- a year, according to Le Monde Diplomatique, who did a big and slightly envious story on the successful competitor.
Marketing cannot be and is not the main reason for the magazine’s growth. The editorial policy of defending ‘the wisdom of the markets’ and fighting all state intervention is what determines the success. Ever since its creation in 1843 by James Wilson, The Economist stuck to its belief in liberalism and supported what is known as the ‘extreme centre’. The articles are almost never signed. The seventy or so journalists all work anonimously, thus not competing but collaborating to make better articles. It is interesting, however, to discover how incongruent the magazine is when the pressure in society grows. Doctrines -in the eye of The Economist- cannot be doctrines always. Saving the banks through state intervention? A good idea, despite the philosophy described above. But a few months later the magazine announces that enough is enough: nationalizing banks would mean ‘interfering with private property, encouraging favouritism, throwing away money and punishing the private sector…’. Unacceptable! Don’t blame the system, blame the people who lead the system, is the message. No wonder The Economist blames Obama, Berlusconi, Monti, and Hollande and admires the one who shows her courage, Mrs. Merkel.
Week after week the reader will find an enormous amount of information in around one hundred pages filled with mostly short articles. The Economist likes business and the economy, but dislikes universities and intellectuals (especially the French). It seems to hate revolutions, street upheavals and all those who complain, but endorses Occupy Wall Street. In favor of freedom, The Economist applauds the arrest of Julian Assange. In any case, the magazine acclaims almost everything the American authorities decide. (The editor in chief, Micklethwai, has worked for an American bank…)
The Economist not very predictable? Or just teasing? Not consequent in its analysis or just challenging? It seems that the readers don’t care. Every week another proof on the doormat of how well informed they are. Even if they can’t find the time to open the pages. The Economist is about status, like Le Monde, Monocle and the FT. Marketing after all.