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The Economist looks to 'psychographics'

News, 11 March 2015
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LONDON: Millennials make up one third of the readership of The Economist, but the publisher is more interested in the psychographics of its readers than in their demographics.

In the view of CEO Chris Stibbs the current tendency for many sectors to focus on millennials rather than better understanding their audience as a whole is "a dangerous thing".

While that might make sense for some publishers – and here he cited the examples of Vice and Buzzfeed – "at The Economist we understand that our target audience is best defined by its psychographic rather than its demographic".

By that he meant people with an interest in international events and the impact of technology on the world, people who are "career-driven, ethical and like a challenge". Economist readers share these characteristics, he declared, not an age.

In saying that, however, Stibbs said he was not dismissing the need to address changing media consumption patterns which are typically led by millennials.

"Our challenge is to truly understand what makes us unique, stay true to those values and learn how to replicate them across the proliferation of platforms, formats and channels," he explained.

But it's a complex picture that can't be reduced to simple binary options – millennials still read newspapers and boomers watch mobile video.

And while any publisher has to have an eye to bringing on a new generation of readers it should not fixate on age.

"If your market spans the generations because of a collective interest that is not generational, be prepared to innovate and tailor how you deliver the content, maintain the quality and stay true to the mission," Stibbs asserted.

So, rather than targeting millennials as a group, The Economist's aim is to targeta group it tags "progressives", described by one of its readers as having "a real interest in people not like me, living lives not like mine, in different countries where things are done differently".

Many younger people thought this way, Stibbs observed, but a formula that worked for his magazine wouldn't necessarily work for other media brands – that is "a matter of their own unique voice and readership".

Data sourced from The Guardian; additional content by Warc staff

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