The Economist’s recent performance had been less-than-robust, with many long-term readers losing sympathy with the paper’s EU obsessions and woke lurch exemplified by the title’s new slogan “in pursuit of progress since 1843”. Now, with falling advertising and newsstand revenues, the company has just put out the first profits warning to shareholders in living memory, consoling them with the knowledge that the CEO, non-executive directors and senior management would not be taking bonuses and will be taking double-digit pay cuts. 100 people have been laid off from the commercial side – not a single journalist.
For the editor, Zanny Minton Beddoes, that means she’ll have to get by on a meagre £364,000 (based on her 2019 salary of £455,000). It will not come as a total surprise that the Economist’s overall commercial performance is suffering. Zanny can’t bear to be around the vulgar commercial people who sell the things like advertising, conferences and the subscriptions which pay her and her team’s far more generous salaries. Zanny’s grand offices for her and her journalists in John Adam Street cost three times the rent in Canary Wharf – to where the salespeople have been shunted off. The morale of the sales team she needs to pull her out of this crisis is, unsurprisingly, not great.
Nobody personifies the woke metropolitan elite more than Zanny Minton Beddoes, who has been editor of the Economist since 2015. Has the shift to a more woke editorial slant been good for business? How non-executive director and major shareholder John Elkann (scion of the Agnelli family) feels about this is unclear. The Economist’s constitution means that in practice the editor can’t be fired. So even if at times it seems to shareholders like the lunatics run the asylum, there is little they can do about it.