Does Anyone Actually Read ‘The Economist’?


Written by Lord Lansdowne

As I find myself still reading the first issue of The Economist I received in June, two more issues have already appeared in my mailbox. I am so behind that their Predictions of 2013 supplement from December still sits on my desk, still wrapped in cellophane. I have to ask: does anyone actually read The Economist? Or are we all just pretending, carrying it around just so people think we are well-informed?

In this day and age with late-breaking news and political updates coming through Twitter in real-time, subscribing to a magazine seems almost pointless: by the time this analogue form of news hits my postbox, most of the content it carries is pretty stale. Obama was already president by the time the issue examining who was the best candidate arrived. Yet, their in-depth analysis of world situations, economies, battles between tech giants are well-researched, revealing and explain much more than a Tweet ever could.

Here's my problem: I can't keep up with it.

From cover to cover, The Economist is 100 pages. Remove the covers, the advertising for hideous jewellery rich businessmen should consider buying their wife (or mistress), job postings looking for people to run universities, economies, entire countries, the index and readers' letters (yes, there are people that read AND write back) and you're left with approximately 80 pages. No big deal, right?

Each of these pages is stacked Tetris-style with articles, leaving barely any space for anything other than for a stamp-sized image of what the article is about (if applicable) and a terse but detailed graph (if applicable). The text itself compares to a size 9 or 10, which makes me wonder how grey-haired capitalists in their golf clubs can even see the letters.

According to my chronometre, one whole page took about 3 minutes and 59.64 seconds to read. I tried to read as fast as possible while still understanding what the article was about. Let's say 4 minutes for the sake of simplicity: the entire magazine takes a meagre 320 minutes to read. In other words, that's about 5.34 hours. You would need to dedicate a little over 45 minutes a day, seven days a week, to read it from cover to cover before the next issue.

Could you? Yes, you could. Can you? Fuck no.

Honestly, the only thing I've learnt from The Economist is this: they make Tolstoy's War and Peace a breeze to read, many of their correspondants write for an audience that will never read any of their reports and when this subscription expires I'm going to sign up for something with a few more pictures. Maybe Playboy, which I hear has articles in it, too.