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1843 Magazine: The Relaunch Of The Economist’s Bimonthly Lifestyle Magazine Reveals A Bold New Design To Tell Stories Of An Extraordinary World – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Rosie Blau, Editor In Chief, & Mark Beard, Publisher…

March 27, 2019

“The cover has been a big part of the discussion, obviously, about what we want to do as a magazine. For me, the goal to create the cover represented many different things that we were trying to do. My aim is that when you extend 1843 in whatever format, you find it surprising, it makes you smile and it leaves you with something that you want to share. It should be funny, but it should also be beautiful. And those are a lot of things to try and get into one place.” Rosie Blau…

“The relaunch is going to enable us to do two things and that is bolster reader revenue and advertising revenue. So, one thing that we are seeing is that both readers and advertisers are wanting to engage with audiences in a range of platforms and by relaunching 1843 on a number of platforms, we make those platforms available to advertisers and that will bolster advertising revenue. But also we make the content more engaging to readers too and they can read us where they want to read us.” Mark Beard…

The Economist announced the relaunch of its bimonthly lifestyle publication 1843, named for the year The Economist was founded. 1843 gives readers stories of an extraordinary world, with long-form narrative journalism a dominant feature, both in its print version and online. And as we all know, long-form narratives online are a no-no – or are they? Mr. Magazine™ loves a rebel, don’t you know. (Ole Miss pun intended)

I spoke with Editor in Chief, Rosie Blau and Publisher, Mark Beard recently and we talked about this taboo thing called long-form journalism online. Rosie explained that in 1843’s case, readers loved the meatier stories, the long-reads that keep them enthralled and begging for more. And with a redrawn logo and the tagline “Stories of an extraordinary world,” 1843 begins its new journey down a path that puts stories first and allows readers to be surprised and delighted by what they find along the way.

Mark explained that one of the excitements lay in the new incorporation of 1843’s app within The Economist’s app, and while the intricacies of the actual transfer of content was a bit hair-raising, it was well worth a few sleepless nights.

Rosie said the goal of the new design and compelling content was to make readers question assumptions and take a sideways look at the enduring stories of our age, with a bit of humor and irreverence. And Mark added that all of those great stories can now be enjoyed by even more readers since all editions of 1843 will be included in The Economist’s classic app.

And with a powerhouse like The Economist behind you, there is no way to go but up and all over the world. So, I hope that you enjoy this delightful interview with our friends from across the pond, Rosie Blau, editor in chief, and Mark Beard, publisher, 1843 magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why the relaunch of 1843 is getting so much media attention: because of the refinement of James Wilson’s vision or because it’s part of The Economist (Rosie Blau): Obviously, we like to think that it’s a brilliant magazine that deserves the media attention in its own right, but it’s always wonderful to have the backing of a well-respected and already well-established and well-known brand behind us. So, we’re very lucky.

On why the relaunch of 1843 is getting so much media attention: because of the refinement of James Wilson’s vision or because it’s part of The Economist (Mark Beard): From the commercial perspective, it’s because we’ve kind of captured the mood in the sense of many publishers and that is, there is a need to change the business model and create content that readers and advertisers can engage with in different ways. And I think one of the reasons why we are seeing so much attention from the readers is that we are doing lots of that all in one go. So, publishers around the world are looking at how they can create film content and podcast content and they can place their content in digital environments like apps and online.

On the relaunch including the 1843 becoming bigger and more dominant on the cover and what they are trying to achieve with 1843 as a brand (Rosie Blau): The cover has been a big part of the discussion, obviously, about what we want to do as a magazine. For me, the goal to create the cover represented many different things that we were trying to do. My aim is that when you extend 1843 in whatever format, you find it surprising, it makes you smile and it leaves you with something that you want to share. It should be funny, but it should also be beautiful. And those are a lot of things to try and get into one place.

On whether she thinks the role of the magazine cover in this crowded information age has changed at all (Rosie Blau): I think it has changed because as you say it’s such a crowded market. But I think it’s also in that crowded market, as I said, there are these shorthand’s that we use to signal what we are. And so it’s difficult; interesting, but difficult, to signal that we’re something different. So, to me this is a move in that direction.

On the business model for 1843 (Mark Beard): The relaunch is going to enable us to do two things and that is bolster reader revenue and advertising revenue. So, one thing that we are seeing is that both readers and advertisers are wanting to engage with audiences in a range of platforms and by relaunching 1843 on a number of platforms, we make those platforms available to advertisers and that will bolster advertising revenue. But also we make the content more engaging to readers too and they can read us where they want to read us.

On whether her stories-first approach is similar to an audience-first approach (Rosie Blau): The thing about the stories-first approach is that the idea is there are really exciting things that we don’t tend to think about. And so for me, if I’m thinking what do the readers want or what do the audiences want, I don’t know that they know what they want. Part of the point is to challenge and surprise them, and it’s hard to think, okay, we know that this is something that they want, we know that they want more stories about hem lengths or whatever. So, I think what we’re trying to do is trust our intuition. For me, being a journalist is all about trusting your intuition, but there is something interesting here and let me find out more. And that’s really what we’re going with, kind of looking at these stories and thinking in what way can we push them and in what ways might we see them. So, that’s the stories-first approach.

On the genesis of the tagline: Stories Of An Extraordinary World (Rosie Blau): What that comes from, it was a very hard thing to come up with, and one of the other contenders was: Life, The Untold Story. What we feel we do best and what we really show in common with The Economist is this idea of challenging and posing and questioning assumptions. And our subject is “your world” and “your stories” and “the world that you experience.” And so my main aim is to be looking at the things that we take for granted, the things that we see around us, the issues of our day and the enduring issues of our time, and try and look at them in new and different ways.

On how it feels to be publisher of a global brand (Mark Beard): I’m obviously very proud to be publisher of 1843. It’s a job that I hoped I would get at some point in my career, so I’m very proud to have the role. One of my other roles at The Economist is I have past experience marketing for The Economist. And of course, The Economist is also global. So, I’m very used to operating in a global environment and the basics and challenges that come with that. And trying to benefit from being able to roll things out globally while understanding that there are local nuances to what you need to do to perform effectively around the world.

On the biggest challenge they have had to face (Mark Beard): One of the things that you’ll see if you were to open The Economist’s app today is that 1843 now sits within The Economist’s app, which enables many of our subscribers to The Economist to also benefit, read and engage with 1843 content. And that might look like a relatively simple process, a good strategy and relatively simple on the surface, but you can well imagine that working with the tech teams and the editorial teams to move content from one platform to another is not simple and that’s been challenging, but also rewarding because we’ve been told by a number of people that what we’re doing is cutting edge. And creating an app environment where our consumers can consume all of our content in one place is something that is added again, as I understand it.

On having a long read section on the web and whether she knows something others don’t when it comes to the thought that snippets of information are better-suited for the web (Rosie Blau): Do I know something that others don’t? Well, I don’t know, but what I do know is that with our content over recent years, the long reads are the things that people read most, read for longer, depending on how long they are. Our most popular stories are always our long reads. So for us, it’s a question of how we do more of it, not how we do less. And we actually find that the snippets often don’t do nearly as well, even things that we think might do well. So, our experience is that long reads do extremely well online and if we have the resources to do more of those, then we will.

On how she differentiates the long reads online from the long reads in print (Rosie Blau): Some of it is exactly the same and the features that we run in print also go online, and those are extremely popular typically and continue to be popular. But we don’t have a distinct form for long-form features online versus in print. There are a lot of things that we’re thinking about, different types of long reads that we might do for online only to help us be more timely, and things that work better for an online audience than in print, because we have quite a long delay even between going to press and coming out. But also, we only publish every two months, so there are things that we can do online, it offers us a chance to do things that we are excited about that we couldn’t do in print.

On whether he is selling the brand, the print magazine, the digital, or 1843, no matter the platform when he approaches advertisers (Mark Beard): We’re selling the content and the environment and an audience, of course. We have an extremely engaged audience. We are creating content and placing that content on the platform where we know they are grazing. We are able to offer incredible insight to advertisers as to who the audience is; we’re very clear that they are in the main existing Economist readers. We can describe exactly where they are, they are loyal subscribers.

On whether 1843 now has a different audience on digital than in print or it’s the same audience, or somewhat of a shared DNA (Mark Beard): We’ve been asked to describe a base for The Economist so let’s talk about those first, because a significant number of readers of 1843 are Economist subscribers. The subscribers who receive 1843, some of them are print subscribers and some are print plus digital subscribers, our bundle subscribers. And some of those people, of course, will be accessing 1843 content through the app, rather than from just receiving the print copy. And we do know that the make-up of our print plus digital subscribers is slightly different from our print only subscribers. You might imagine, for instance, that they’re younger and more digitally engaged. By making our content available on this range of platforms, we are able to tap into the different audience profiles of our subscribers to The Economist.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Mark Beard): You would probably find me walking my dog. I live a half an hour outside of London in a leafy green village. It’s a complete antidote and opposite of London. I generally come home from work and the first thing I do to relax is take our Border Terrier, Oakley, for a walk to clear my mind.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Rosie Blau): I usually hang out with my kids, they’re quite a good leveler in all things, they’re six and nine. We discuss their day and I tell them silly things about mine, but for me that’s a great way to come back to earth and think about the really important things in my life, which is my family.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Rosie Blau): Maybe the word interesting.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Mark Beard): Positivity.

On what keeps them up at night (Rosie Blau): It was quite stressful producing the final; getting there for this relaunch. And the weird thing for me was after it had gone to press, but before we had it, this kind of fear of what I hadn’t saw, these huge glaring errors that were so big that I hadn’t seen. That is what has most often been keeping me up at night recently. But thankfully, no glaring errors have been found yet. (Laughs)

On what keeps them up at night (Mark Beard): What has been keeping me up at night recently is the switchover of our digital platforms and namely the move from websites and apps to being incorporated into The Economist app, which as I said before, sounds like a simple job on the surface, but had lots of intricacies. Of course, we had a launch deadline to work toward and everyone was working to ensure a smooth transition of the app of 1843 appearing in The Economist app, which fortunately it did. But as you can imagine, there were a few sleepless nights before that.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Rosie Blau, editor in chief, and Mark Beard, publisher, 1843 magazine.

Samir Husni: It’s rare to see a magazine relaunch get as much attention as 1843. Is it because it’s The Economist or is it because you’re refining James Wilson’s vision of what a magazine was back then and what a magazine is today?

Rosie Blau: I’m not sure that we’re redesigning James Wilson’s vision, but we have continued to interpret it, of course. I think The Economist is obviously a very well-known and respected and loved brand and we’re part of that and we’re really delighted to be in the same wit and rigor and trustworthy independent journalism, but on very different subjects and in a very different mode.

Samir Husni: So, do you think that’s the reason? Let’s say you’re doing 1843 without The Economist and you decide to relaunch it, would you have received the same media attention, if nothing else?

Rosie Blau: Obviously, we like to think that it’s a brilliant magazine that deserves the media attention in its own right, but it’s always wonderful to have the backing of a well-respected and already well-established and well-known brand behind us. So, we’re very lucky.

Mark Beard: From the commercial perspective, it’s because we’ve kind of captured the mood in the sense of many publishers and that is, there is a need to change the business model and create content that readers and advertisers can engage with in different ways. And I think one of the reasons why we are seeing so much attention from the readers is that we are doing lots of that all in one go. So, publishers around the world are looking at how they can create film content and podcast content and they can place their content in digital environments like apps and online.

Of course, what you’re seeing from the reader is that we’re doing much of this at the same time, and we’re able to do that in many instances because we are part of The Economist Group and we can tap into all of the good things that our association with The Economist brings. And I think that is also a valid reason as to why there is quite a lot of attention on this event, because we’re doing this holistically in one go, when many of the publishers kind of did that tied into various different platforms one at a time.

Samir Husni: Tell me then, we moved from Intelligent Life and a tiny 1843 to a big, dominant 1843 on the cover, tell me about the progression and the thinking behind the relaunch and what you’re trying to achieve today as an 1843 brand.

Rosie Blau: The cover has been a big part of the discussion, obviously, about what we want to do as a magazine. For me, the goal to create the cover represented many different things that we were trying to do. My aim is that when you extend 1843 in whatever format, you find it surprising, it makes you smile and it leaves you with something that you want to share. It should be funny, but it should also be beautiful. And those are a lot of things to try and get into one place.

Previously, we have almost always run a person on the front of the magazine. And as you know from the magazine world, that tends to be shorthand in the magazine world for: this is a magazine for men or for women. So, I’m not ruling out the idea that we might put people on the cover in the future, we may well do that, but for me, I wanted to move away from something that instantly looked like a magazine for men or for women and instead have this message of: this is something super-interesting and funny and challenging.

Samir Husni: Do you think the role of the magazine cover in this crowded information age has changed at all?

Rosie Blau: I think it has changed because as you say it’s such a crowded market. But I think it’s also in that crowded market, as I said, there are these shorthand’s that we use to signal what we are. And so it’s difficult; interesting, but difficult, to signal that we’re something different. So, to me this is a move in that direction.

And then in terms of the size of the logo, the first thing that I wanted to do when I became editor was get rid of the white strip across the top of the previous incarnation of 1843, because I just hated it. (Laughs) And we had a lot of discussions about it and we kept coming up with different covers, though we very often would have, with the possible new covers or the new logos and all of that, the white strip every time and that was one thing that I was adamant about that I didn’t want.

Samir Husni: Mark, as you see this relaunch and as you see the changing landscape of even the magazine business model, The Economist has always been as much circulation-driven as advertising-driven. What’s your business model for 1843?

Mark Beard: The relaunch is going to enable us to do two things and that is bolster reader revenue and advertising revenue. So, one thing that we are seeing is that both readers and advertisers are wanting to engage with audiences in a range of platforms and by relaunching 1843 on a number of platforms, we make those platforms available to advertisers and that will bolster advertising revenue. But also we make the content more engaging to readers too and they can read us where they want to read us.

And that has two benefits: there will be more people reading 1843 and we expect more to subscribe to 1843, but what we also see is that in many instances 1843 is a kind of onramp and an entry point into the Group’s other products, so people may begin to subscribe to 1843, but then also move on to ultimately subscribe to The Economist. The idea behind the relaunch is to bolster both sides of the business, circulation and advertising revenue.

Samir Husni: And Rosie, you mentioned in one interview that you start with a stories-first approach. Almost all of the editors I’ve interviewed tell me they start with an audience-first approach. Is the stories-first approach similar to an audience-first approach?

Rosie Blau: I suppose so. What tends to happen if you discuss a story is sometimes, if you’re thinking about different ways to do a story, you reach the realization sometimes quickly, sometimes more slowly, that it’s not that interesting. And you don’t continue to be interested in it. So, in that sense, yes, I think we try and think about how attuned we are and how excited we are about stories, with a gauge for how we do them and what will work for our audience too.

The thing about the stories-first approach is that the idea is there are really exciting things that we don’t tend to think about. And so for me, if I’m thinking what do the readers want or what do the audiences want, I don’t know that they know what they want. Part of the point is to challenge and surprise them, and it’s hard to think, okay, we know that this is something that they want, we know that they want more stories about hem lengths or whatever. So, I think what we’re trying to do is trust our intuition. For me, being a journalist is all about trusting your intuition, but there is something interesting here and let me find out more. And that’s really what we’re going with, kind of looking at these stories and thinking in what way can we push them and in what ways might we see them. So, that’s the stories-first approach.

Samir Husni: Is that the genesis of the tagline: Stories Of An Extraordinary World?

Rosie Blau: What that comes from, it was a very hard thing to come up with, and one of the other contenders was: Life, The Untold Story. What we feel we do best and what we really show in common with The Economist is this idea of challenging and posing and questioning assumptions. And our subject is “your world” and “your stories” and “the world that you experience.” And so my main aim is to be looking at the things that we take for granted, the things that we see around us, the issues of our day and the enduring issues of our time, and try and look at them in new and different ways.

And I feel that sets incredibly well with the current news, which we are all subjected to a deluge of news and even news junkies, even those of us, and I include myself in those news junkies, we sometimes get sick of the constant breaking news, but also the fact that the world out there seems pretty scary and a worrying place, and like other Brits, I feel humiliated by my government right now. And so there’s a difference; it’s not saying go bury your head in the sand, but it’s saying there is an optimistic and incredibly positive side to the mess that lives around us. And I want us to see that extraordinariness. I want us to feel excited about understanding our own world better.

Samir Husni: Mark, how does it feel to be a publisher of a global publication? Yes, it is based in Britain; yes, it is also in the United States, but it’s available all over the world. Does that make you think twice when you wake up, thinking wow, this isn’t just a British publication, it’s a global publication?

Mark Beard: I’m obviously very proud to be publisher of 1843. It’s a job that I hoped I would get at some point in my career, so I’m very proud to have the role. One of my other roles at The Economist is I have past experience marketing for The Economist. And of course, The Economist is also global. So, I’m very used to operating in a global environment and the basics and challenges that come with that. And trying to benefit from being able to roll things out globally while understanding that there are local nuances to what you need to do to perform effectively around the world.

But yes, I’m extremely proud to be publisher of 1843. And more so at this point in time rather than any other; it’s such an exciting time for a publication and we’re transforming the business plan from top to bottom. We’ve looked at every single element of the commercial plan, from the brand positioning to the platforms that we want to be present on. And we’ve made conscious decisions for everything that we’ve done. I’m very proud, and the organization has been very supportive and patient and listened to what we believe and want to do. And they have supported Rosie’s vision, so yes, it’s a very exciting and thrilling time for us.

Samir Husni: And what has been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Mark Beard: To some extent we can talk about the digital platforms and as you know, since apps and websites have come into fruition for publishers there has been a want and a willingness on the part of publishers to set up individual websites and apps for each and every publication that is within their stable. And we were one of those publishers for a period of time, we embarked upon a journey of setting up individual platforms, those apps and websites for 1843. And one of the things that Rosie and I certainly believe is that we should be taking much greater advantage of The Economist’s audience. And because of that we have commercially gone on a journey to incorporate 1843 content into more of The Economist’s ecosystem.

So, one of the things that you’ll see if you were to open The Economist’s app today is that 1843 now sits within The Economist’s app, which enables many of our subscribers to The Economist to also benefit, read and engage with 1843 content. And that might look like a relatively simple process, a good strategy and relatively simple on the surface, but you can well imagine that working with the tech teams and the editorial teams to move content from one platform to another is not simple and that’s been challenging, but also rewarding because we’ve been told by a number of people that what we’re doing is cutting edge. And creating an app environment where our consumers can consume all of our content in one place is something that is added again, as I understand it.

Samir Husni: You have a long-read section on the web, on the digital side; does this go against the norm, where people just want snippets on the digital side and long reads in print? Are you swimming against the current or do you know something that other people don’t?

Rosie Blau: Do I know something that others don’t? Well, I don’t know, but what I do know is that with our content over recent years, the long reads are the things that people read most, read for longer, depending on how long they are. Our most popular stories are always our long reads. So for us, it’s a question of how we do more of it, not how we do less. And we actually find that the snippets often don’t do nearly as well, even things that we think might do well. So, our experience is that long reads do extremely well online and if we have the resources to do more of those, then we will.

Samir Husni: How are you going to differentiate that from the long-read in print? What’s your philosophy on giving print what print deserves and giving digital what digital deserves?

Rosie Blau: Some of it is exactly the same and the features that we run in print also go online, and those are extremely popular typically and continue to be popular. But we don’t have a distinct form for long-form features online versus in print. There are a lot of things that we’re thinking about, different types of long reads that we might do for online only to help us be more timely, and things that work better for an online audience than in print, because we have quite a long delay even between going to press and coming out. But also, we only publish every two months, so there are things that we can do online, it offers us a chance to do things that we are excited about that we couldn’t do in print.

To go back to the stories-first idea, the idea of telling personal stories and trying to sort of illuminate and question our assumptions from the ground-up and through individual narratives is something that we apply across all formats, so that’s what we think about when we think about online features too.

Samir Husni: Mark, do you do the same when you are selling? Are you selling the brand; are you selling the print magazine; are you selling digital; or you are selling 1843 regardless of the platform?

Mark Beard: We’re selling the content and the environment and an audience, of course. We have an extremely engaged audience. We are creating content and placing that content on the platform where we know they are grazing. We are able to offer incredible insight to advertisers as to who the audience is; we’re very clear that they are in the main existing Economist readers. We can describe exactly where they are, they are loyal subscribers.

So, on the whole we have a very compelling proposition I think, not only to readers but to advertisers in that if they want to reach a certain audience on a range of platforms, we are perfectly positioned now to do that. And I think that’s a compelling proposition to advertisers who are, in increasing numbers, when they’re talking to publishers like us, asking for responses to their advertising briefs. And they want us to go back with a multiplatform response. And in the past, a few years back, we could have gone back with a print-only response, but in many instances advertisers are now saying we want you to tell us how you can help us reach these audiences in a range of platforms. And I’m proud that we can now to do that.

Samir Husni: Are you finding out that you have a different audience on digital than in print or it’s the same audience, or there’s some kind of shared DNA between the print and digital audiences?

Mark Beard: We’ve been asked to describe a base for The Economist so let’s talk about those first, because a significant number of readers of 1843 are Economist subscribers. The subscribers who receive 1843, some of them are print subscribers and some are print plus digital subscribers, our bundle subscribers. And some of those people, of course, will be accessing 1843 content through the app, rather than from just receiving the print copy. And we do know that the make-up of our print plus digital subscribers is slightly different from our print only subscribers. You might imagine, for instance, that they’re younger and more digitally engaged. By making our content available on this range of platforms, we are able to tap into the different audience profiles of our subscribers to The Economist.

I should also say that 1843 is helpful for us when we are attracting more women and females to the Group, and we know they’re a greater number of readers for 1843. So, 1843 is also useful in that regard.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Mark Beard: You would probably find me walking my dog. I live a half an hour outside of London in a leafy green village. It’s a complete antidote and opposite of London. I generally come home from work and the first thing I do to relax is take our Border Terrier, Oakley, for a walk to clear my mind.

Rosie Blau: I usually hang out with my kids, they’re quite a good leveler in all things, they’re six and nine. We discuss their day and I tell them silly things about mine, but for me that’s a great way to come back to earth and think about the really important things in my life, which is my family.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Rosie Blau: Maybe the word interesting.

Mark Beard: Positivity.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Rosie Blau: It was quite stressful producing the final; getting there for this relaunch. And the weird thing for me was after it had gone to press, but before we had it, this kind of fear of what I hadn’t saw, these huge glaring errors that were so big that I hadn’t seen. That is what has most often been keeping me up at night recently. But thankfully, no glaring errors have been found yet. (Laughs)

Mark Beard: What has been keeping me up at night recently is the switchover of our digital platforms and namely the move from websites and apps to being incorporated into The Economist app, which as I said before, sounds like a simple job on the surface, but had lots of intricacies. Of course, we had a launch deadline to work toward and everyone was working to ensure a smooth transition of the app of 1843 appearing in The Economist app, which fortunately it did. But as you can imagine, there were a few sleepless nights before that.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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