The Economist recently relaunched its lifestyle magazine 1843 and The Drum Network interviewed editor Rosie Blau and publisher Mark Beard to find out the motivation for refreshing a brand first launched in 2016 and to ask about the future of magazine publishing in a digital world.
How does 1843 sit within the larger Economist brand? Do the audiences for both titles closely overlap?
Rosie Blau (RB): I see 1843 as expanding The Economist’s universe. We’re for a different moment in your day. Both titles share the same values, the same rigour, independence and intelligence. But they serve a different purpose. You read The Economist to understand the world out there, and you read 1843 to illuminate your own life and your own experiences. The subject is different and complementary -- and the approach is different too. The Economist explains, whereas 1843 tells stories. And we look different too, giving as much emphasis to visual storytelling as we do words.
Mark Beard (MB): 1843’s content and environment attracts a range of advertisers who may not otherwise invest their marketing budgets with the Economist Group. And similarly, 1843 is not only enjoyed by existing subscribers to The Economist, but also serves as an entry-point to the Group’s content, attracting readers some of whom will then not only subscribe to 1843 but also The Economist. And so 1843 is complementary to The Economist, attracting new audiences and advertisers.
Why the ‘relaunch’? What has changed?
RB: In a world where we are all deluged by breaking news, we are trying to do something different. Our aim is to make you look at your world again, to see it in a new light, telling stories that make you question your assumptions, or take a sideways look at life.
Our first cover story, “Death of the calorie”, is a great example: once you’ve read it you’re never going to see the food on your plate in the same way again. And your friends won’t either, because we’re telling the kinds of stories that you really want to share. As we were going through the editing and production process and various different people read that piece, I could hear the “Wows!” round the office, and then invariably someone would start to read out the bit they’d just got to. Too often in life you go “wow” at the world seeming awful. With our new tagline of “Stories of an extraordinary life”, we’re trying to go behind the scenes in your life and present the world back to you. We’ve seen a real appetite for that kind of story, which connects to people’s daily life or experiences in some way, but offers them a really substantial and surprising view of it. Our new look reflects that content really well too: it’s bright, graphic and beautiful, and grabs you as soon as you see it.
MB: The world is a very different place to when 1843 was originally launched. Readers want to read, watch and listen to content in a range of formats, dependent upon the time, place and mood in which they are consuming content. Our experience with expanding the audience that reads and advertises with The Economist tells us that we need to be present in print and in digital, including in-app, online, film and podcast. And so, in addition to refreshing the content of 1843, we have also taken some key decisions about our digital platforms, and improved the experience for readers and advertisers. For example, from the relaunch issue, 1843 will be available within The Economist classic app, rather than being published in a standalone app. And very soon 1843 content will also be integrated into Economist.com, increasing the number of eyeballs who will view the content and also increasing the amount of advertising inventory that is available to brands who wish to engage with the 1843 audience.
What are the key challenges to the success of a magazine title like this in 2019?
MB: The key is to remain focused on what our audience demands in terms of the ways in which they want to consume the content, and to stay one step ahead of that. As an example, we have seen a phenomenal increase in the demand for podcast content amongst our audience and this has forced us to have to think very hard about the 1843 proposition in this space, which has been both a challenge and an incredibly interesting business opportunity to explore.
RB: There are so many competitors for people’s eyeballs now, in all formats, so of course it’s a challenge to grab their attention. That’s one of the reasons we do film and podcasts, as well as print, digital and online editions. We aim to fill a gap in the market for an intelligent and surprising take on your everyday life and the forces that shape it -- something that combines style with substance, and is funny and irreverent too.
What about online presence? Should a magazine like 1843 always have a news website too and, if so, should the website feature different content from the magazine?
Blau: We start with a “stories first” approach, and then work out what format to use, and what medium. Sometimes that means pieces are the same online as in print, but for others we do something very different. And we produce films and podcasts too. We’re always looking for ways to present content, so it’s great that we have so many different outlets.
What role for things such as mobile-first sites, online video content and social media promotion for titles such as 1843?
Blau: Readers want to consumer these stories in a variety of formats. Part of the re-launch of 1843 is transitioning the brand to be a multi-platform title that readers can engage with, in print, in-app, web, film, podcast, social platforms and event format.
Can the hard copy magazine survive the next decade or might there be an ‘environment-focused’/circular-economy backlash against print newspapers and magazines?
Beard: We are reader-centric in that we aim to provide our content in whatever format our readers want to engage with it. This is better for the reader and it’s better for clients as they have an engaged audience on the other end of their marketing message.
Blau: We persist with print because we’ve found a lot of people have a real connection to a print product, and because we’re producing a really beautiful object. If you look at the magazine market now you can see that there’s been a real upsurge in beautifully produced titles -- you could say they’re the coffee table books of our day. Where we are different from many of those other titles is that our content is fabulous too -- we’ve got amazing photos that we’ve given over entire spreads to, but you’re going to want to read it too. So it works really well in print, it’s a beautiful item for those who want it. Many of our readers prefer to read the digital edition, and that’s great too. We’ve seen a proliferation of publishing methods and different readers want different things.