Money changes hands.
August 12, 2015 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Last month, Pearson sold the Financial Times to Nikkei (the media corp, not stock market), as reported in the Economist. Today, Pearson sold its 50% stake in the Economist to its other owners, as reported in the Financial Times. Thoughts from Slate Money, Quartz, The Week UK, and the New York Times.
posted by psoas (20 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Many well -established firms, including papers,get bought up. There is but one question for the reader of that paper (they prefer to call themselves a paper): will this change the way they offer the news and articles?
posted by Postroad at 2:07 PM on August 12, 2015


It seems The Economist will retain it's editorial independence, which is, to me, a good thing. I don't really read the FT too regularly but I'm curious to see how this affects Nikkei's ongoing battle with Bloomberg.
posted by dazed_one at 2:11 PM on August 12, 2015 [2 favorites]




How is a magazine worth well over $1 billion in 2015? I mean, I get that it's a well-known magazine, but isn't the entire dead tree publishing industry struggling to make it?
posted by miyabo at 3:07 PM on August 12, 2015


Pearson's press release states: "Pearson is now 100% focused on our global education strategy". And these two sales really show that it is going all-in on educational publishing digital education. From my experience (as a sometimes vendor for them), they stand out among the major educational publishers in terms of really committing to the transition from print to digital. Having said that, they are an ENORMOUS ship to turn, and have an enormous workforce whose communal knowledge and culture needs to change, so it's pretty messy going. They have the most re$ources to fund the digital education experiment ('cause it ain't cheap to develop!), but it remains to be seen if any plucky edu-startup can disrupt their dominance. They've been successful in fighting off and/or absorbing any significant ankle-biting challengers so far.
posted by Kabanos at 3:08 PM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Economist has — especially in the US, I think — a reputation out of all proportion to its quality, and certainly doesn't deserve to be in the same league as the FT. When they were both under Pearson it was really The Sun to the FT's, er, 1970s-era Sunday Times.

Even that "no bylines" thing which may have had its roots in something meaningful is now little more than a ruse to hide the fact that the staff is largely quite young/inexperienced writers who have hot-take right-wing Opinions 4U, albeit dressed up in serious suits.

So, yes, great to see they've enshrined their editorial independence. Pity that I'm certain I'll continue to be dismayed by most things they'll do with it.
posted by bonaldi at 3:09 PM on August 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Economist is a great, long-standing global magazine with a polished and elite-orientated reputation that appeals to time-poor elite-minded/wannabe English-speaking/reading professionals around the world - it has huge audience growth potential.

It is naturally far from perfect and the articles are often far from being as intellectual or deep-thinking or worldly as its image tries to suggest. The Economist's nearest equivalents however are Time and Newsweek which are both justifiably seen as less intellectual and less globally-minded than The Economist.

The Economist is also idiosyncratic in its style (and in its organizational culture... the "no bylines" thing stems partly from its office routine culture of a intellectual debate process amongst its writers and editors to generate consensus views) - this can be off-putting but also makes readers loyal.

The Economist has always been clear since its 19th century founding that its perspective is ideologically classic liberal i.e. pro-free markets and pro-individual freedom but tempered with a belief that the collective and government action is needed correct the problems of markets and freedom too (The Economist is not libertarian). This and its generally pro-business and elitist stance makes it unpalatable to many but is appealing to its core target audience.

The Economist is not just a business publication however and it has not been editorially timid on social and political issues it supports. It has taken significant risks with its audience popularity in championing controversial causes that are in line with its classic liberalism. In January 1996 ( Pearson acquired its 50% stake in The Economist in 1957) , The Economist made a pro-same sex marriage editorial its main cover story, with the headline "Let them wed" splashed on the its front page beside a wedding cake decorated with 2 male groom dolls . It was probably the first mainstream newspaper or magazine to do such a thing. As another example, it has also been an indefatigable and prominent opponent of Silvio Berlusconi when he was leader of Italy.
posted by Bwithh at 3:53 PM on August 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


How is a magazine worth well over $1 billion in 2015? I mean, I get that it's a well-known magazine, but isn't the entire dead tree publishing industry struggling to make it?

I spent years as a corporate communications director and read the Financial Times every day. I didn't even know it had a print edition.

I mean, on the one hand, that probably suggests that I was bad at my job. On the other hand, it makes it pretty clear that their print offering is just a small part of their total value.
posted by 256 at 4:19 PM on August 12, 2015


Oh... were you talking about the Economist? I basically only ever read it when an article was linked from elsewhere, so I have no answer on that one....
posted by 256 at 4:30 PM on August 12, 2015


The FT really does beat every other paper or magazine.
posted by kiltedtaco at 4:50 PM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


bonaldi, I'm curious to know what you think The Economist's "hot-take right-wing Opinions 4U" are. They're definite supporters of the free-market, so if you consider that a hot-take right-wing opinion, I suppose I can't argue, but on the flip side they favour gun control, universal health care, marriage equality, the legalization of drugs and lessening harsh, unfair prison sentences - all positions which are generally considered very left wing.

They endorsed Tony Blair's election, but ended up disapproving of Blair's subsequent take on security and have in the past endorsed both Tory and Labour, Republican and Democrat candidates in various elections. Because of all these things how can you be so confident that they are populist right wingers like you claim?
posted by dazed_one at 5:02 PM on August 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Back when I did a lot of business travel, I'd always pick up The Economist at the airport. It was so much to read that it would usually last me my flight out, back and whatever waiting around time I did at the various airports. This was pre-Kindles and smart phones.

hot-take right-wing

they favour gun control, universal health care, marriage equality, the legalization of drugs and lessening harsh, unfair prison sentences

I always considered The Economists pro-business and classically liberal in their viewpoints. They did favor gun control and universal healthcare, but what do you expect from a British magazine. Marriage equality, drug legalization and harsh prison sentences is the classic liberalism showing.

The Economists is certainly not "right-wing" in the current American political sense.
posted by LoveHam at 5:45 PM on August 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'd have to agree, LoveHam, and I think they describe themselves as classically liberal too, which is why I'm curious about the 'hot-take right-wing' thing.
posted by dazed_one at 6:06 PM on August 12, 2015


I spent years as a corporate communications director and read the Financial Times every day. I didn't even know it had a print edition.

The FT is literally the only paper that I would prefer to read in paper form. I like the broadsheet and I like that the articles are either contained to one page or continue onto a consecutive page (no flipping to a totally different page). I have a corporate subscription so I can read the entire paper from front to back online at no cost to me every day. The online subscription page is different from the internet site in that it has a layout that is identical to the newspaper - it basically looks like a scanned version of the paper. Yet, I would still prefer to read the actual paper, so much so that I'm seriously considering paying a couple of hundred dollars for the annual subscription just so I can get the physical version. I end up stopping to read a bunch of additional things when I'm flipping through the paper that I would never stop to look at when I'm looking at it online. Plus, I can kind of easily pick it up and read a quick article here and there while I'm on hold on the phone or something, whereas with the website I'd have to dial up the page, sign in and then navigate to specific articles. I love the FT and I've read it for years. Some of the best news coverage out there, imo.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:27 PM on August 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


How is a magazine worth well over $1 billion in 2015? I mean, I get that it's a well-known magazine, but isn't the entire dead tree publishing industry struggling to make it?

First of all, in general, it is the American print media that has been struggling. The press in UK - mostly the Murdoch press and Telegraph/ FT, but not the Guardian which has been loss-making for ever - has been reasonably thriving. I believe it is the same story with the Japanese newspapers as well.

More crucially, American print media had been struggling because most of their revenue came from advertisements, and quite a huge chunk of that moved online with the likes of Google ad's and Craigs List. On top of it, they also started losing paying print-subscribers to non-paying online ones, which acted as a double-whammy.

Now, I understand that The Economist, along with FT, were among the first news providers who managed to shift the majority of their revenue from advertisements to subscriptions; in ten years, print ad's as a revenue share dropped from 49%-ish to 20-something percent, if I recall correctly.

On top of it, The Economist has a very loyal audience; their articles are these bite-sized summaries which are a niche in these information-overloaded times. (Notably, Vox.com is also aiming for the same genre, so to speak, but for a different demographic) Which is also why they not only have survived the shift from print to iPad's/ online subscriptions, but also have been adding heavily to their circulation numbers.
posted by the cydonian at 8:18 PM on August 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Economists is certainly not "right-wing" in the current American political sense.

Thing is, they're regularly neo-liberal nevertheless; for instance, they haven't found a country they can't be reformed with free-trade (although, granted, they aren't absolutist about it). They also tend to reflexively support privatization even in situations where the benefits are unclear.

However, in an Asian (Singaporean and Indian, specifically) context, they're quite reliably left-wing both in economic and social terms (more welfare in Singapore, for instance), which is quite refreshing, given the constant bombardment on right-wing themes by the establishment press.
posted by the cydonian at 8:49 PM on August 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


How is a magazine worth well over $1 billion in 2015?

The group made a profit of £60 million in the year to March 2015 and is seeing growth for other products, if not for print ads, so that's a reasonable multiple.
posted by kerplunk at 1:26 AM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Economists is certainly not "right-wing" in the current American political sense.

Yes, though that's become a difficult grab-bag term conflating right-wing opinions and opinions right-wingers hold. In the UK opposition to gun control, abortion and gay marriage are not requirements for entry to right-winger-ism. They're possibly moderate liberal in US terms?

The paper is certainly relatively social liberal -- but a Conservative government recently introduced gay marriage in England, so again that doesn't indicate huge amounts -- but will shrug its shoulders about the social impact of austerity, even though the policy itself is economically bankrupt.

There's perhaps a culture thing here. I'm not saying the Economist is Fox; its opinion writers aren't Rush Limbaugh. But in the context of the UK press, it's much more akin to the Spectator than it is to something like the FT.

I still count the Economist as right-wing, however, particularly in its opinion. It has never met a war it didn't like, for instance: I can't remember them opposing any mooted action in recent memory. The infamous "Skintland" cover on the Scottish Referendum was beyond hot-take and into outright trolling.

From their leader supporting the Tories:
We believe in the radical centre: free markets, a limited state and an open, meritocratic society.
You can discount the "centre" part, everyone attempts to claim that ground, as they do "meritocratic". Free markets and limited state are right-wing positions. Caring about these things above all else, as they appear to do, certainly is.
posted by bonaldi at 5:06 AM on August 13, 2015


Is it weird that, as one of the more hard-left Mefites, I subscribe to the Economist, and did so mainly because renewing the Financial Times was too expensive? I mean, this is literally a "know what the other side is thinking" thing for me, but the Economist is better than the New York Times for giving an overview of a lot of different international situations.

I find the Economist to be consistent: it is economically devoted to neoliberalism but actually believes all the rhetoric about democracy, which means I disagree with it primarily on the topic of its title. I do miss the Financial Times mostly for its remarkable salmon-colored paper, which is something of a joy.
posted by graymouser at 7:46 AM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not weird at all. I remember first coming across the Economist in an unabashedly rave review from the leftie Whole Earth catalog way back in the 80s. After all these years its still one of the best places to read about things before they become headlines in popular media. They're always good at spotting financial trouble spots (e.g. the US housing bubble), they have the best science writing, fine book reviews and obituaries that are amazing :)
posted by storybored at 9:00 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


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