Executive Team of the Year 2008: The Economist


John Micklethwait, editor of The Economist and an avowed fan of The Simpsons, was delighted when Homer gave the highbrow news and opinion magazine props in one episode. “I thought it was great," he effused during a recent interview at the title's U.S. base in New York.

With its authoritative coverage of global business, financial and political news, the U.K.-based Economist has long been required reading for the elite. In recent years, some might have been surprised to see the weekly turn up in rather unexpected places--from The Simpsons to the Chris Rock comedy I Think I Love My Wife. To Micklethwait, those shout-outs signal that the magazine has finally transcended its erudite image and become solidly a part of the popular culture.

American culture's loving embrace of The Economist coincides with its stunning business successes here in recent years. Racking up impressive ad and circulation numbers, the news and opinion title has blown past other newsweeklies and business magazines, many struggling to redefine their mission in the digital age. In recognition of the title's remarkable performance, publisher Paul Rossi and editor Micklethwait are AdweekMedia's Executive Team of the Year. The magazine also earned the top spot on this year's Magazine Hot List.

The London-based Economist began publishing in 1843, but its becoming a force in the U.S. is a relatively recent development, the result of geopolitical events and the publisher's own strategic moves. Before the '80s, the brand had no U.S. ad sales presence. Then came 9/11.
Three years later, parent The Economist Newspaper Ltd. identified the U.S., along with India and Asia, as growth markets for new readers and advertisers. In January 2005, the company tapped Rossi, a longtime Economist ad salesman who at the time served as publisher of its Web site, to be publisher of the North American print edition and its extensions. Last December, Rossi added the title of executive vp of The Economist Group North America.

While certainly well-respected, The Economist suffered under the perception that it was difficult to read and was a pure business magazine. To change that, it launched marketing blitzes in major markets including Boston, Baltimore and Denver. Readers and advertisers responded in a big way. Today, North America accounts for more than half of the magazine's worldwide circ. In second-half 2007, circ soared 12.8 percent to 720,882 year over year and 43 percent over three years, per Audit Bureau of Circulations--this, despite its premium cover price. (At $5.99 per copy, The Economist charges about $1 more than the leading business and news titles, and its average net annual subscription price is a hefty $98.)

Continue to next page →