Emarketer has a very interesting interview with the publisher of Economist.com. Highlights:

  • The current revenue split is 60% advertising, 40% subscription and individual article purchases. “I think it’s hard to imagine that subscriptions become probably more than 50% of revenues, partly because I think advertising’s still going to continue to grow. I think it’s not that subs is less important; I think you’re seeing the overall growth in advertising being bigger or as big. “
  • The Economist has separate print and online sales forces. Not only does it avoid sales people giving away online to sell print, but “It’s also that a lot of what we do is complicated. It’s variable. If you think of selling print, for example, it’s, “Do you want a color page or a black-and-white page?” Selling dot-com is very much about understanding the customers, understanding the technology. I think you need two sets of people doing those separate jobs. “
  • There’s a lot of free content on the home page, but for you have to be a subscriber read most of it. It’s an important tool for selling subscriptions.
  • They have 174,000 subscribers, but the bulk of them are print subscribers who have activated their free online subs. That puts online subscription revenue at under $6 million (174,000/2*$70/year).
  • The average online reader is 10 years younger than the average print reader. If you excluded those free print subs, I suspect they would be even younger.

What comes across is a refreshing lack of hubris. The Economist, as one of the strongest brands in business and news, is as unique a case as the Wall Street Journal. But they are clearly focused on learning from their mistakes and building their business incrementally, instead of thrashing around with strategic shifts.