Media: Double Standards - 'We're the gourmet meal amid internet snacking'

News and current affairs magazines are fighting off the threat from the internet in style. Here, two publishers explain the sector's enduring appeal.

SETH HAWTHORNE - PUBLISHING DIRECTOR, THE WEEK

- How do you account for the general sales success of the news and current affairs magazine sector?

Well, The Week accounts for a large part of it - 58 per cent of the market growth from the last Audit Bureau of Circulations period was down to The Week, after all. We are now inundated with news 24 hours a day, and what people want is the analysis behind the news - and the news weeklies do that so well.

- What is driving your own magazine's UK sales growth?

The Week readers are very strong advocates of the title - word of mouth is an incredibly important reason our circulation is growing so rapidly. Our readers are also extremely loyal, with more than 130,000 copies being fully paid-for subscriptions. Strong financial backing from Dennis Publishing also ensures that there is investment available when new marketing opportunities arise.

- What editorial changes/improvements have you made in the past year?

We haven't made any - in fact, we haven't changed a thing since we launched 12 years ago. The only reason to change is if something is going wrong. We continue to attract new readers, so I am happy to leave the editorial product as it is. It's the perfect mix of form and function.

- What is the appeal of your title to advertisers?

The Week has a highly targeted, fast-growing army of AB readers, who are dedicated to the title week in, week out. We offer a clutter-free environment for advertisers, which guarantees excellent visibility for their brands. Ours is a crucial audience and perfect environment for upmarket advertisers. Our audience includes some of the most affluent and influential opinion-formers in the country - many of whom will be reading this.

- How important are newsstand sales to your business?

All sales are important. However, our readership is so loyal that the vast majority of our sales come from fully paid-for subscriptions.

- Given the proliferation of free content online, why do readers still turn to your magazine?

Jon Connell came up with the idea of The Week as a way to cut through media clutter in the mid-90s. Step forward 12 years and that media clutter is magnified ten-fold. The Week is now even more important than at its launch.

- What's the most creative solution you've offered to advertisers in the past year?

We've a strict policy on the volume of ad pages in The Week, so every week we offer advertisers unprecedented standout, which is pretty unique. With a readership so heavily skewed towards home-delivered subscriptions, we've used the outer polywrap to great effect - BlackBerry being the most recent advertiser to use it. We also publish a quarterly magazine - The Quarterly - which is sent out to UK subscribers packaged with The Week.

- What would you most like to be doing if you weren't in your current role?

I would like to run a film location business. I started my working life running summer season end-of-pier shows, and I love property and design, so it would be the perfect combination of property and the entertainment business for me.

- How do you relax?

I watch my wife spend yet more money on shoes.

YVONNE OSSMAN - UK CIRCULATION AND MARKETING DIRECTOR, THE ECONOMIST

- How do you account for the general sales success of the news and current affairs magazine sector?

The sector is alive and well. Magazines are a young person's medium. Among the curious, affluent and educated, whether 25 or 45, The Economist and other publications are a ritual pleasure to be savoured - a gourmet meal compared with the snacking they do on the web, which is replacing daily newspapers for many people.

- What is driving your own magazine's UK sales growth?

We are growing everywhere, not just the UK. Worldwide, we have a circulation of more than one-and-a-quarter million - doubling in the past ten years. So the UK is just part of our global success. It's happening because people want to know more about the world; they want to be taken seriously, not talked down to; they want to be challenged, entertained and informed. If you look at Facebook, there are 10,000 people discussing what they read in The Economist. I saw a post there recently saying: "My girlfriend just subscribed. That's hot." So, there's a new reason to read us!

- What editorial changes/improvements have you made in the past year?

We have just taken Intelligent Life, the lifestyle publication from The Economist, quarterly with a new design. It appeals to our readers who don't, on the whole, read other lifestyle magazines. It's lifestyle with substance.

- What is the appeal of your title to advertisers?

The industrial economy gave way to the service economy. But now we live in a knowledge economy, and that's driven by ideas. The Economist is the fuel for the people who set the trends and the agenda, influence others and make decisions in their business and personal lives. It's hard to reach what we call "the ideas people". To reach them, you need The Economist.

- How important are newsstand sales to your business?

Critical. If you've got something to say, then you want to be where people can see and find you. We like the challenge of having to be good enough every week, of competing with all titles head-to-head. It keeps us sharp.

- Given the proliferation of free content online, why do readers still turn to your magazine?

It's that ritual pleasure again. People read The Economist in the bath, in their favourite coffee shop, at the gym or spa. And they want to do that in print. They snack on the web between distractions. For us, they make time and space in their lives.

- What's the most creative solution you've offered to advertisers in the past year?

Chevron wanted to engage our audience about energy and the environment. We developed an online game, where you have to meet the energy needs of your city and keep the citizens prosperous and secure and protect the environment. Try playing it at willyoujoinus.com/energyville. I think it's fun and provocative. And with marketing throughout our channels, it's a creative solution to the brief.

- What would you most like to be doing if you weren't in your current role?

My six-year-old wants to make films and he wants me to be his agent.

- How do you relax?

I'm learning a lot about dinosaurs at the moment ...