The Atlantic Tries To Pin Down The Economist‘s Success In Dying Magazine World

In the most recent Atlantic contributing editor Michael Hirschorn tackles why The Economist is thriving while newsweeklies like Time and Newsweek decline. It’s a hot topic for discussion recently — and even came up during the Columbia J-school business journalism panel we attended earlier this week.

Hirschorn’s take: “The writing in Time and Newsweek may be every bit as smart, as assured, as the writing in The Economist. But neither one feels like the only magazine you need to read.”

Hirschorn also makes the same “niche is king” argument that we have heard time and time again:

“Repositioning your brand today is so much harder than it was in the old days, especially when you’re destined to be seen as a copycat product. In the digital age, razor-sharp clarity and definition are the keys to success. Knowing what and who you are, and conveying that idea to an audience, is the only way to break through to readers ADD’ed out on an infinitude of choices. General-interest is out; niche is in. The irony, as restaurateurs and club-owners and sneaker companies and Facebook and Martha Stewart know — and as The Economist demonstrates, week in and week out — is that niche is sometimes the smartest way to take over the world.”

In a video interview with’s editorial director Bob Cohn, Hirschorn said the trends that have led to the downfall of the newsweekly were a long time coming. “All the trends that you’re seeing now have been under way for 25 years,” he said. “What’s different now is that the economic crisis is calling the question much more quickly.”

After the jump, the video of Hirschorn and Cohn’s talk