Feature

All about ... The Economist

What will Bill Emmott's departure mean for the title, Ian Darby asks.

Everything at The Economist seems to be done with a certain sense of decency and style.

Take last week's announcement that its editor, Bill Emmott, is to step down. The news didn't dribble out in a mess of rumour and innuendo - it came in the form of a valedictory statement that trumpeted Emmott's achievements.

Emmott, 49, is off to write books, focusing on his great fascination with Japan and China. Sir Robert Wilson, the chairman of The Economist Group, praised Emmott for "setting ever-higher standards of analysis and commentary for the paper" before setting The Economist's board of directors and trustees the task of replacing him.

Favourites for the job include the title's deputy editor, Emma Duncan, and US editor, John Mickle-thwait. The new editor is expected to be in place by the end of March.

The Economist is riding high. Its group turnover in 2005 rose to £197 million and profits grew to £27 million on the back of circulation rises and ad and sponsorship revenue increases of 5 per cent.

So will Emmott's departure have an impact on this achievement? Alan Dunachie, the director of operations at The Economist, says: "Bill will be a difficult act to follow, but I have no doubt that his departure won't affect our commercial success.

The editor's is a tremendously important role that defines the paper during the term of their office, but their achievements raise the bar for the next editor."

1. The Economist was founded in 1843 "to support the cause of free trade". Between 1845 and 1932, The Economist incorporated the Banker's Gazette and Railway Monitor and described itself as "a political, literary and general newspaper". Since 1928, the title has been half-owned by the Financial Times, now owned by Pearson. The other half of the business is owned by a group of shareholders, some of whom are staff.

2. Emmott is only the 13th editor in The Economist's history. Editors previously in the chair include Sir Alistair Burnett and Andrew Knight, who subsequently worked for Telegraph Group and then News International. The Economist Group is currently run by its chief executive, Helen Alexander.

3. In 13 years under Emmott, the global circulation of The Economist has almost doubled. At the end of 1992 it was 510,978 - it is now 1,009,759. UK circulation stands at 158,142, having risen by 52 per cent over the past ten years and 3.2 per cent year on year. Emmott can't take all the credit for this huge global circulation rise - targeting the US has paid off, and further growth has come with that of the Asian economies. Mind you, Emmott and his team have had to contend with Sars, the crash of the "Asian Tiger" economies in the late 90s and the post-September 11 sense of doom.

4. The Economist is perhaps unique in never deviating from its ratecard when selling ad space. A full page targeting the worldwide readership will cost between £79,900 and £85,200. A full page in the UK edition will set you back between £17,800 and £20,500, with the most expensive double-page spread coming in at £34,100. But, apparently, it's worth it. As one press director puts it: "It's always in the schedule when you're targeting chief executives. Circulation is still going up, so it's got to be the easiest brand in media to sell."

5. Emmott is the third senior executive to step down from The Economist in the past year. He follows the deputy editor, Clive Cook, and publisher, David Hangar, who retired. Hangar was replaced by Andrew Rashbass, who has begun to make changes to The Economist's commercial operations. The most significant change so far seems to be a greater attempt to do deals across The Economist's portfolio. In addition to the magazine, The Economist Group also comprises The Economist Intelligence Unit, conferences and magazines including CFO and European Voice.

6. The marketing of the Economist brand has been key to its success. Its famous "white out of red" campaigns have been created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO for 18 years. Now, for the first time, these ads will also run in the US. Jacquie Kean, the title's global brand marketing manager, says: "At the heart of everything is this idea that The Economist is about success. And that can be a reader's own definition of success, whether it's financially or socially."

WHAT IT MEANS FOR ...

ADVERTISERS

- The Economist will continue to be essentially the same product and there are few alternatives when advertisers are looking to target a group of more than one million "high influencers".

- Emmott has, in the past, emphasised the separation between the roles of editor and publisher at The Economist. So nothing in The Economist's commercial approach will change as a result of a change in editor.

- Since the appointment of Rashbass as publisher last year, advertisers have seen a greater focus on cross-selling The Economist's sister products.

READERS

- The Economist claims that the majority of readers won't know the editor is moving on. Its policy of not running bylines alongside stories or leaders creates the impression of a team effort on each item.

- That said, the title might miss Emmott's expertise, especially his knowledge of Japan and other markets in the Far East.

- Critics of The Economist have suggested that its tone is slightly too confident, bordering on arrogant, and that this alienates female readers. The appointment of Duncan as its first female editor could silence such complaints.