The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






The Economist

The Economist is a weekly news and international affairs publication of The Economist Newspaper Limited in London. It was first published in 1843 to take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.

Subjects typically covered include international politics, business, finance, science and technology and the arts. The publication is targeted at the high-end "prestige" segment of the market and counts among its audience influential business and government decision-makers.

For historical reasons The Economist is often referred to as a newspaper, though unlike most newspapers it is printed weekly in magazine form on glossy paper, like a newsmagazine.

The publisher announced in the newspaper's 5th March 2005 issue that "the weekly global circulation of The Economist has passed the 1,000,000 mark" for the first time, with sales for July-December 2004 averaging 1,009,759 each week.

The Economist magazine belongs to The Economist Group. The Group includes the CFO brand family as well as European Voice [1], Roll Call [2] (known as 'the Newspaper of Capitol Hill'). The Group also publishes The Economist Intelligence Unit [3], called the EIU (a business information provider for businesses around the world). The EIU provides analysis and forecasts of the political, economic and business environment in 200 countries and employs 650 specialists.



The Economist’s primary focus is world politics and business, but it also runs regular sections on science and technology as well as books and the arts. Every two weeks, the newspaper includes, as an additional section, an in-depth survey of a particular region or field of business.

Articles often take a definitive editorial stance and almost never carry a byline. This means that no specific person or persons can be named as the author. Not even the name of the editor (currently Bill Emmott) is printed in the issue. It is a longstanding tradition that an editor's only signed article during his tenure is written on the occasion of his departure from the position. The author of a piece is named in certain circumstances: when notable persons are invited to contribute opinion pieces; when Economist writers compile surveys; and to highlight a potential conflict of interest over a book review. The names of Economist editors and correspondents can be located, however, via the staff pages of the website.

The newspaper has a trademark tight writing style that is famous for putting a maximum amount of information into a minimum of column inches. The one feature most articles have in common is the concluding witticism. Some have joked that as long as the writers can deliver that, their political or other opinions do not matter. Since 1995, The Economist has published precisely one obituary every week, of a famous (or infamous) person from any field of endeavour.

The Economist is also famous for its Big Mac index, which uses the price of a Big Mac hamburger sold by McDonald's in different countries as an informal measure of purchasing power parity between two currencies. It has turned out to be a whimsical but surprisingly accurate index for comparison. In January 2004, this index was joined by a Starbucks "tall latte index".

The magazine is also a co-sponsor of the Copenhagen Consensus.

Each of the opinion columns in the newspaper is devoted to a particular area of interest. The names of these columns reflect the topic they concentrate on:

Two other regular columns are:

  • Face Value: about prominent people in the business world
  • Economic Focus: a general Economics column frequently based on academic research

The magazine goes to press on Thursdays, is available online from Thursday evening GMT, and is available on newsstands in many countries the next day. It is printed in seven sites around the world.


The Economist newspaper sponsors yearly "Innovation Awards", now in six categories.

The 2004 Award for Social and Economic Innovation is Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank.


The newspaper was first published in September 1843 by James Wilson to “take part in ‘a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.’” This phrase is quoted on the newspaper's contents page.

When the newspaper was founded, the term “economism” denoted what would today be termed fiscal conservatism. The Economist generally takes both an economically and socially liberal (or libertarian) position disfavouring government interference in either social or economic activity, though views taken by individual contributors are quite diverse.

The newspaper:

Like many newspapers, The Economist occasionally uses its pages to endorse candidates in upcoming major elections. In the past, the magazine has endorsed:

A history of The Economist by the editors of puts it this way:

What, besides free trade and free markets, does The Economist believe in? “It is to the Radicals that The Economist still likes to think of itself as belonging. The extreme centre is the paper's historical position.” That is as true today as when [former Economist editor Geoffrey] Crowther said it in 1955. The Economist considers itself the enemy of privilege, pomposity and predictability. It has backed conservatives such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. It has supported the Americans in Vietnam. But it has also endorsed Harold Wilson and Bill Clinton, and espoused a variety of liberal causes: opposing capital punishment from its earliest days, while favouring penal reform and decolonisation, as well as—more recently—gun control and gay marriage. [11]


Circulation for the newspaper, audited by Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), is on average 1,009,759 (July 2004-December 2004 figures) sales per week. Sales outside North America totalled 492,167, with sales in Latin and North America making up 517,592. Previous audits have put approximately 21% of the readership in continental Europe, 16% in the UK and 11% in Asia.

The newspaper consciously adopts an internationalist approach and notes that over 80% of its readership is from outside the UK, its country of publication. The current editor (as at October 2004), Bill Emmott, assumed his role in 1993.

The Economist Newspaper Limited is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Economist Group. One half of The Economist Group is owned by private shareholders, and the other half by the Financial Times, a subsidiary of The Pearson Group. The editorial independence of the Economist is strictly upheld. In 2002, the Economist Group turnover was 227m in 2002 resulting in an operating profit of 15m (down from 21m in 2001 and 32m in 1998, the decrease attributed to a sharp decline in advertising). Income streams are split roughly 50-50 between advertising and other areas, such as subscriptions.

In July 2004, The Economist Group launched an upmarket lifestyle magazine called Intelligent Life, an annual publication.


The Economist frequently receives letters from senior businesspersons, politicans and spokespersons for government departments, Non-Governmental Organisations and pressure-groups. While well-written or witty responses from anyone will be considered, controversial issues will frequently produce a torrent of letters. For example, the Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility, published January 2005, produced letters from Oxfam, the UN World Food Programme, UN Global Compact, the Chairman of BT, an ex-Director of Shell and the UK Institute of Directors.


Sections of The Economist criticising authoritarian regimes, such as China, are frequently removed from the newspaper by the authorities in those countries. Nelson Mandela stated that he used to receive The Economist while imprisoned in South Africa until the authorities there realised that it was not restricted to covering economic issues and was, moreover, taking a very strong line against the Apartheid regime.

External links

  • – homepage of The Economist
  • The Economist Group – website providing group information and links to all group publications such as CFO, Roll Call and European Voice
  • Intelligent Life – homepage of Intelligent Life
  • Economist 1993 – Ruth Dudley Edwards ’ retrospective on The Economist, written on the occasion of its 150th year of publication

Further reading

Edwards, Ruth Dudley. The Pursuit of Reason: The Economist 1843–1993. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1993.

See also

The contents of this article are licensed from under the GNU Free Documentation License. How to see transparent copy