Greetings, people of Reddit. I'm Tom Standage, digital editor at The Economist. I oversee the website and our smartphone and tablet editions, and I'm also editor of the Technology Quarterly. I've also been The Economist's business editor, technology editor and science correspondent. I’m the author of five history books, including “The Victorian Internet” and “A History of the World in 6 Glasses”. In my spare time I enjoy video games, playing the drums and drinking wine (but not all at the same time, obviously). Ask me anything about how The Economist does things, our approach to digital, upcoming trends in media and emerging technologies more broadly.

Here's verification and more verification.

I will start answering questions at 11am EST/4pm GMT.

Thanks for all your questions. It's been great fun. Bye!

Comments: 195 • Responses: 46  • Date: 

ernie9831 karma

I've always found that The Economist has a clear, effective, straight-to-the-point writing style, which is very enjoyable (to me at least).

I was wondering: is that something that's explicitly asked of staff writers? If so, how do you (or someone else) help your colleagues achieve that?


tomstandage34 karma

When we hire people, we basically ignore the CVs and just look at the sample articles they send in. (We ask people to submit "an article they think would be suitable for publication", or somesuch.) If the article contains a brilliant idea, or is written perfectly to our style, or ideally both, then that person goes on the shortlist. The great thing about our style, from the perspective of being a writer, is that it's pretty clear what the target is that you're supposed to hit. If you can hit it, then your copy will hardly be edited at all as it goes up the editorial chain. If you can't, then it will be edited ruthlessly, which encourages you to try harder next time. This seems to work.

ihtkwot10 karma

How long is the editorial chain from writer to the top?

tomstandage19 karma

Not that long, because the staff is quite small. Most articles are written by a journalist, edited by a section editor, edited again by the department head, and then proofread. Leaders go to the department head and then the editor-in-chief. So I suppose that's two rounds of editing for most pieces. In practice other interested parties are often asked to provide advice or input, and we also have a floating "night editor" (a job I sometimes do on Wednesdays) to provide an extra pair of eyes.

ihtkwot9 karma

Thank you for the reply. I never imagined that the staff at The Economist would be "quite small."

azneo2 karma

They have about 100-120 journalists and quite a few "stringers" (regular contributors). That said for a weekly publication that covers the globe it is a small staff.

tomstandage28 karma

Fewer than that -- around 80 staff journalists, in fact. And every Monday morning about 40 of them squeeze into the editor's office. I usually sit on a window sill, and many people have to sit on the floor.

cactoos5527 karma


tomstandage65 karma

I’ve always seen this question from the perspective of a gamer. Do I prefer fighting lots of small enemies while crawling a dungeon, or fighting the boss at the end? I generally find boss fights quite tedious, because they either involve exploiting the boss’s unusual vulnerability, usually heavily signposted, using a recently acquired item (I’m looking at you, Zelda games), or it’s simply a matter of grinding the enemy down (as with a dragon in Skyrim). We could speculate about what the amusing weak spot of a horze-sized Berlusconi might be, but I think I’d prefer to pick off the 100 duck-sized ones. I get to bring all my gear from Skyrim, right?

howit_zer2 karma

Which platform for Skyrim? PC, PS3, or XBox?

tomstandage14 karma

Xbox, with massive projector! I have a PS3 but rarely use it, and we're an all-Mac household.

thi8li13 karma

Hi Tom,

As a writer and editor of serious journalism, and an author, how do you personally manage digital distractions and stay productive?

tomstandage16 karma

Not at well as I could. I probably spend much too much time on Twitter. I just finished writing my next book, which is on the prehistory of social media, from the Romans to the internet. I became much more productive towards the end of writing it because my wife started using Twitter, and she could tell when I was tweeting instead of writing. That’s when I’m wearing my hat as an author, though. At work we are all used to meeting deadlines. For years I wrote articles and edited pages that had to be ready by a certain time, and it’s a good discipline. I think it must be odd to work in other industries without that kind of clarity. And now that I mostly work on digital stuff, I must say that I miss the catharsis of print publication.

MyNeighb0rTotoro12 karma

First of all - thanks for answering questions on Reddit and also being an active member of the Quora community.

I will ask something that I have always wondered about Economist. Why doesn't your newspaper publish the name of the columnist or journalist with their articles like other news-magazines do?

tomstandage25 karma

Hey, Totoro! Excellent user name. Unless you really are Totoro?

Anyway, you are one of several people to ask about our no-byline policy. The use of bylines used to be exception rather than the rule in all publications, and we've simply maintained that tradition while other publications have permitted rampant byline inflation (to the extent that some papers run picture bylines on ordinary news stories). We use initials as bylines on many blog posts, particularly on multi-author blogs (such as Democracy in America, our US politics blog) where our writers can and do disagree with each other, and it would then be confusing not to be able to distinguish between different authors. This approach is not without its faults (we have four staff members with the initials "J.P.", for example) but is the best compromise between total anonymity and full bylines, in our view.

The rationale for the lack of bylines in print is that every article should have the collective authorial voice of The Economist (which is also why we edit closely for style); and many articles are collaborations between multiple authors and editors. In practice you can often work out who the main author of an article is. When I covered telecoms, for example, people in the industry knew me and knew that I was responsible for the telecoms pieces. And our media directory shows who covers what at The Economist. So the lack of bylines does not, in practice, conceal the identity of our writers. But it does reinforce the way in which our articles are the product of The Economist's collective hive-mind.

As you note I also respond to questions on Quora, where there's a longer version of this answer.

yoshi30311 karma

Hi Tom, there is no dedicated app for Android Jelly Bean users, nor is there any support in the Google own news and magazine centre, 'currents'. Will you be bringing support for this soon?

tomstandage18 karma

When we ported our Android app to the Nexus 7 it ran very slowly so we had to fix that. The resulting app has been optimised for Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 but will run on all Jelly Bean tablets. We’re just testing it now and it should be out in February. Sorry it’s taken so long. We have no plans to join Currents.

moygara10 karma

If you only had five minutes a week for The Economist, what section would you read?

tomstandage19 karma

Probably the Science & technology section, because that's where I started, so I feel a certain loyalty and fondness towards it, and it was always the section I read first before I joined the staff. My other favourite bits, as a reader, are the obituary and the columns (Bagehot, Charlemagne, etc).

snowstorm999 karma

Thanks for doing this Tom, I'm a long time subscriber to The Economist and always flick straight to the technology section.

My question: Are there any emerging technologies that you feel are being over-hyped by developers which you just don't see taking off? Personally I see that The Economist regularly talks about 3D printing yet (as far as I know) we aren't really seeing anything like a "new industrial revolution" as the Economist predicted would happen.

tomstandage12 karma

Yes, this will be an interesting year for 3D printing. The plan announced by Staples to offer neighbourhood-level 3D printing services, along with the availability of cheaper 3D printers, will reveal just how much latent demand for this there really is. But I agree with those (like my predecessor as Economist tech ed, Chris Anderson) who see this as the "Macintosh moment" for 3D printing. It's the point where a technology (in the case of the Mac, GUI-based computing) comes within reach of the general public. It took quite a while to become widespread, and I think the same will be true for 3D printing. For one thing it needs to work with more materials.

richa0049 karma

Another question from me - how many hours a day do you work? Is this more as you approach deadlines or is there a fairly even spread?

tomstandage12 karma

Certainly Wednesday is the busiest day because we go to press on Thursday morning. So section editors tend to stay until 10pm on Wednesday and have to be in at 7.30am on Thursday. On the flip side, not much happens on Friday afternoons. Now that I mostly work on digital stuff, my working hours are more 10-6ish. I also work from home a couple of days a week. On those days I work longer hours and get more done, because I'm not wasting my time commuting.

akshatrathi8 karma

I was the Richard Casement intern at the Economist last year. I saw that journalists at the paper worked normal hours (9 to 6ish). But there was no one keeping time. People came in and left whenever they wanted. The office was open 24 hours.

I know many who worked from home many times. My boss (science & tech editor) works from home 2 days every week (not counting the weekend of course).

tomstandage16 karma

Thanks, Akshat! Yes, there isn't really a culture of presenteeism here. Nobody really minds where you are, as long as you do your job.

aendrew8 karma

Hi Tom! There are two fundamental approaches in catering to the mobile web: apps and native HTML5 experiences. How do you see these evolving over the next while, especially in relation to how the Economist caters to mobile users?

tomstandage8 karma

For the time being (the next two years, say) I think we'll want to have native apps for iOS, Android etc. But like many people I think HTML5 will prevail eventually, particularly for our sort of content. (Native apps will probably always make sense for things like games.) That said, I'd note that many apps are hybrid, combining native code with HTML5/Javascript/CSS; we are doing this on a couple of platforms, in fact (eg BlackBerry Playbook). Another problem for us is audio; you can't cache 150MB of audio with an HTML5 app, and audio is one of the things people really love about our apps. So, we have an HTML5 app and we have native apps, and we'll continue to assess the pros and cons of each. We're also about to make our website more mobile-friendly, and I think that's very important too. So it's a hybrid world.

malestroit7 karma

The Economist proposes policies for struggling economies, which usually boil down to opening up to international trade, reducing business restrictions and improving infrastructure. The UK is very open to trade, is very business friendly, and has 1st world infrastructure (though motorways are overloaded). But the economy is still struggling. What is your prescription?

tomstandage4 karma

This is not my specialist subject. But broadly our view is that George Osborne is mostly doing the right things. We think he could do a bit more on deregulation and on infrastructure investment. But the reality is that whoever does the job, the chancellor has very little room for manoeuvre.

richa0045 karma

Hi Tom, great to have the chance to ask you anything..

Who are your articles geared towards with regard to audience - professionals or academics?

tomstandage45 karma

They are geared towards a curious alien who has just landed and speaks English. This is why we say things like "Ford, a carmaker".

TLinden315 karma

Any comments/thought on paywalls, particularly regarding the Economists' approach?

tomstandage7 karma

I think we need a new word. Many opponents of paywalls are arguing against a kind of paywall (the watertight kind) that almost nobody uses. Like many other websites, we have a metered paywall. The New York Times does, too. But when companies report good results from paywalls, opponents of paywalls respond that "they don't really count as paywalls" because they are not watertight. This is tedious. So I applaud Andrew Sullivan's use of the word "meter" as an alternative to "paywall". (But I know it's really a metered paywall.)

ihtkwot3 karma

Do you know the particulars of how The Economist failed to secure the domain name

tomstandage8 karma

No. I do know that we only got because one of our tech journalists bothered to register it on the company's behalf. So I assume we were just slow off the mark.

cheek_blushener3 karma

Hi Tom! I've been a subscriber for about 10 years, and being a reader helped me get into B-School.

  • The Technology Quarterly had some of the most insightful and most balanced IT content available. What's the selection process like for picking topics?

  • Many of the articles in The Economist in general have an approach that is pro business/free market, but libertarian on social issues. Are correspondents selected because they have these leanings, or is the slant introduced in editing?

  • You mentioned you liked video games. What are you playing lately, and what are you looking forward to?

tomstandage8 karma

The selection criterion for TQ stories is simply that I must find them interesting. Having covered tech since the late 1990s I've seen lots of stories come around several times. So I'm looking for new things I haven't heard about before. TQ doesn't have a staff -- it's mostly written by freelancers, and it's just me editing it -- so it is essentially a reflection of what I think is interesting.

On the liberal slant; I answered this elsewhere. People who don't agree with our politics tend not to want to work here.

On gaming, I've been playing a lot of Minecraft with my kids lately. I'm still working on Skyrim. Also, 10000000 on the iPhone. Next up is Dishonored, which I promised myself I would not play until I finished writing my next book (I submitted the manuscript on Monday).

ernie983 karma

Hi Tom, thanks for doing this.

Two things:

1) thanks for being on Quora (Tom's profile:, I really enjoy following your answers on there.

2) What is your opinion of Paul Krugman's? He is widely regarded as a brilliant trade theorist, but he's divided opinions since he was awarded a Nobel and shifted to macroeconomic and increasingly political writings. Do you tend to agree with his views nowadays?

tomstandage6 karma

Thanks for your kind words. I sometimes agree with Krugman, but just as often I don't. He is a brilliant economist and once even said nice things about my book "Victorian Internet", but I don't agree with him on everything, and nor does The Economist.

antico3 karma

Thanks for doing this.

Are the staff of Intelligent Life regular Economist staffers?

At what point does the editing/design process of the digital edition of the magazine diverge from the print one?

tomstandage6 karma

Intelligent Life operates like a section of The Economist in many ways, though it’s a separate magazine. It’s in the same building, on the same floor as our Books and Multimedia departments. It has its own staff, but it also shares many members of staff with The Economist; Ingrid, IL’s managing editor, is also The Economist’s chief proofreader. Lots of Economist staff writers (including me) write for IL as well. So I suppose you could call it semi-detached from The Economist.

On editing print versus digital, we essentially have two separate processes at the moment, though we have the same people writing for both. Print articles are written, edited and fit to print pages and then published online. Blog posts are written, edited and published online. So far, so good. But it means that one of The Economist’s defining characteristics -- the way our articles are brief and succinct -- is enforced by the discipline of fitting articles onto print pages, which invariably involves shortening them. So if we no longer have a print edition a decade from now, we’ll need to impose those constraints in a different way.

On design, we deliberately made our tablet edition quite familiar-looking to print readers, because we know Economist readers are often creatures of habit who read The Economist in a particular order and we wanted them to be able to bring their print habits to digital. The website is probably more distinctive when it comes to design. One of the things we have to do, for example, is make the distinction between blog posts and print articles clear through the use of different headers and logos.

dwriggy3 karma

How important would you say social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) is to The Economist in terms of traffic and engaging with your audience?

tomstandage15 karma

It's about 10% in terms of traffic. But I think that underplays its importance. One of the big problems The Economist has is that everyone thinks it only covers economics. They don't realise that it's a global weekly newspaper for the world! So there are all these people out there who don't realise that they are Economist kinds of people. What's brilliant about social media is that it lets us reach people who would otherwise not encounter our content. When they see a chart showing alcohol consumption by country or national variations in plastic surgery they are more likely to realise that we actually cover all kinds of things, in an analytical, global way. Our content seems to work well on social media because people don't want to admit that they read the Mail Online, but they want their friends to know that they read The Economist. So we're a badge brand. In a decade's time many of our subscribers will be people who first encountered The Economist not in an airport newsagent or the school library, but on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or Reddit.

dabbber3 karma

Tom, regularly posts video or audio recordings of discussions, usually among economist writers. Why not also post transcripts of those, so we can read them in private silence? I consider watching a serious discussion to be clearly WORSE than reading it. Software to auto-transcribe is easy to find, and it seems like a tiny amount of post transcription editting would be required.

tomstandage9 karma

I take your point, but I suspect it would not be "a tiny amount", but perhaps your experience of transcription software is better than mine!

MWEsser3 karma

Hi Tom, could you tell me which really (!) new technological products you espect for the near future. I have the impression tah after the desktop computer and the DVD (and may be the smartphone) nothing new really happened in the tech world. Thanks Michael

tomstandage7 karma

Computers are getting smaller and closer to our bodies. Mainframes, PCs, laptops, smartphones. Next up is wearables, including glasses and contact lenses that paint stuff over our view of the world. After that it's implants. And yes, I read a lot of sci-fi.

sct313 karma

Dear sir,

Conflicts aside, have you ever been tempted to track an investment fund based off of the nascent industries The Economist highlights?

3D printing is the first to come to mind...when your cover article came out on that, 3D Systems (DDD) was trading in the near $58!

tomstandage7 karma

Apparently an even better bet is our "Sinodependency index". We were having fun, but it turned out to be good investment advice. We're not allowed to own shares in companies we write about, BTW.

doubleoverhead3 karma

It's not uncommon for the Economist to take a strong position on a particular issue. What is the process like in deciding what the Economist's position will be? What happens when the staff is split as to which side the newspaper should argue?

tomstandage6 karma

We decide these things in the editorial meeting. It's great fun debating a thorny subject. When there's no clear consensus, the editor-in-chief makes the call.

okonom3 karma

Hi Tom. Did the correspondents get to pick their colors for the debate live blogging? If so, did pea soup forget to reserve his colour?

Would The Economist's staff rather have the ECB run by Silvio Berlusconi or Cristina Fernández?

Is the economist ever going to fix the cookie loophole in the 5 article limit on reading online articles? (Please don't)

If you had to decide between receiving The Economist in magazine form and reading it online what would you choose?

tomstandage12 karma

Not sure how they ended up with those colours. I think the live-blog widget we use may have chosen the palette for us.

Berlusconi or Fernández? Ouch. Is that a duck-sized or horse-sized Berlusconi?

On cookies and paywalls: I plead the fifth.

My preferred way to read The Economist is either in print or on a tablet, rather than online. I like to argue that what we sell is "the feeling of being informed when you get to the end". You never get to the end of a website. It lacks what Phil Gyford calls "finishability". By "magazine form" I'm going to assume you mean "finishable form" and that's my preference. The website is for news updates, debates, research etc, rather than primarily for reading this week's issue.

fapistani2 karma

How did the newspaper come by its famously liberal stance? Do you personally agree with it, and if not - how has it affected your work in any way?

tomstandage7 karma

The Economist was founded in 1843, and it came out of a tradition of 19th-century liberalism associated with John Stuart Mill. It's liberal in the original sense. I personally agree with it, and people who disagree with it tend not to come and work here (I don't see any Marxists on the staff). So I suppose it's quite self-selecting. For a more detailed reply about The Economist's politics please see this answer on Quora.

rmashate2 karma

Hello Tom -- from a UX/UI stand point, will you be introducing any new features or killing off others that haven't worked well in your digital offering? And how fast is the turnaround on this generally?


tomstandage3 karma

From a UX/UI standpoint our apps and website are quite conservative. We're not really into bells and whistles. But we will be doing some slightly more daring stuff shortly, as we retool for mobile.

karlol2 karma

Assuming I don't know anything about economics, what is some good literature to start with?

tomstandage7 karma

Start with Tim Harford's "The Undercover Economist".

ollikahn2 karma

Tom, thanks for doing this. I was wondering if you are working on some kind of a "facelift" for your smartphone app. Although it is fine the way it is, especially the possibility of listening the articles, I would appreciate more pictures and videos . I know the fact that many people enjoy reading The Economist because it concentrates on the text and facts in form of graphs, but I would be happy about some kind of feature to get access to related videos, for example the videos you are posting on youtube to a certain topic. That would be a start ;)

tomstandage8 karma

We had a lot of problems with our apps last year, so we were unable to add many new features; instead we spent our time fixing bugs. We think the bugs may finally be behind us, and we can go back to adding new features. Video is top of the list.

TLinden312 karma

Do you try to push the digital Economist content to be more skewed towards American politics/news or an American audience? Do you find that the readership is very different than the print subscribers?

tomstandage8 karma

No. In both cases we strive to be as global as possible. In both cases about half our readers are American, but they are readers who come to us for a global perspective that many American news outlets cannot provide. The online audience is slightly younger and less male, on average (if you see what I mean).

ihtkwot2 karma

  • How long does it take to put together the annual "The World in 20xx" issue?
  • What is the process like for accepting editorials for inclusion in "The World" from political leaders like Enrique Peña Nieto in the most recent issue?

tomstandage5 karma

Daniel, the editor of The World In, hosts afternoon tea in the boardroom in May, and we all pitch ideas. Copy is then due in September and the annual comes out in late November. My piece in this year's annual is on the internet going mobile. This is one of those rare occasions when we get a byline! As for the editorials by political and business leaders, we draw up a list of people to ask, and work our way through. It's amazing how many people say yes.

jefferyskilling2 karma

Why are the articles not authored?

tomstandage9 karma

They are authored! They're just not bylined. See my answer to MyNeighb0rTotoro above.

snowstorm992 karma

Are there any articles which you've written or been involved with that have had unexpected or major outcomes? Are you aware of any business (or government) changing their policies as a result of one of your articles?

tomstandage22 karma

Yes. Stelios Haji-ioannou read this article that I wrote in 2003 about the analogy between low-cost airlines and telecoms operators. He was on a plane at the time. He tore out the page and decided to do what it suggested, which was to apply the business model pioneered by TDC, a Danish operator, to the British market. The result was easyMobile, a low-cost mobile-phone operator. It was a disaster. Sorry, Stelios.

hanmaan2 karma

What process do you and your team follow to track emerging technology? Does it have to reach a threshold? What threshold would you be using? How do you decide when to adopt it and integrate it into the Economist's digital offering?

tomstandage4 karma

There's no formal process. We all just read a lot and talk about things and say, hmmm, we really ought to do something on software-defined networking, or whatever. (Actually we were a bit slow off the mark on that one.) As for The Economist's own use of technology, we're generally pretty conservative. We used ancient old ATEX systems until the late 1990s, and the PC I'm typing on is running Word 2003. It's all about the content, for us, and the technology we use to deliver it needs to work, but is otherwise a secondary consideration.

jamandahalf2 karma

Sir, I am a long-time reader of the Economist and know few other reading experiences that I enjoy more than opening up a new Economist and reading it till the end. I moved to Spain after graduating from college in 2010 and still often buy the magazine at news stands but largely read articles online and through the Android app (using my family's account). The app is a notorious battery hog and does not close unless you force close it and the app is still not available on the Nexus 7 (which was one of the main reasons I was excited to get one this Xmas, to recreate the experience of reading the magazine). I was wondering if there was going to be any renewed focus on Android and specifically Android tablets now that many are becoming such big sellers? Thanks for your time.

tomstandage6 karma

Yes. See my answer to yoshi303 above. Apologies for the delay.

dmark41 karma

Hey Tom, How does the economist choose the cover to the magazine? At times it is the week's biggest story, at other times it seems completely random.

tomstandage6 karma

Yes, some weeks it's a newsy cover, and other weeks we decide we want to write about something that isn't in the news, but should be. This week's cover is a good example; it's our take on "innovation pessimism", the idea that innovation is slowing down. We like to have a mixture of newsy covers and agenda-setting covers. Also, we often have a "split cover" where different covers appear in different parts of the world (though the contents of the paper are the same, just with the articles in a different order).

colinwatkins1 karma

What does Digital PR mean to you?

tomstandage3 karma

Good question. I have to say I find it hard to understand what the point of PR is in a world of social media, except to respond when things go wrong.

Degeyter1 karma

So you're transitioning to a new iPhone app-

Will you ever tell the story about the glitch that let loads of people who had cancelled their subscription to receive it for free on the old one?

It once popped up with a screen saying that 'Your continued access had been a mistake' but it still let me download and read new copies.

What exactly happened?

tomstandage2 karma

The short answer is that our app was buggy. We use the credentials on to authenticate users of the app, and we had lots of problems getting the app, the user database and the main subscriber database to talk to each other. The result was that many subscribers whose subscriptions had lapsed continued to get free access, and some subscribers were denied access. I think it’s now fixed. I hope so, anyway.

riteshmn1 karma

I have been a big fan of your perspective of things ever since I read "The Victorian Internet". I am currently reading your "History of the world in 6 glasses". Your shift in topics seems random. What made you write about the varied topics and how did you zero in on those topics. Also, what other topics are you currently working on?

tomstandage4 karma

Thank you! I know it seems random, but what links all my books together is the way I like to see the present in the past, and the past in the present. My first three books were about historical analogies/parallels, and my second three are all world histories of things you consume, treated as technologies (drink, food, media). So I think it makes perfect sense! My next book is called "Writing on the Wall: Social media -- the first 2,000 years". It covers social media, from its origins in Roman times to the present day. This blog post gives you some idea of where I'm coming from. That book will be out in October 2013.

spidernomic1 karma

Hi Tom, could you respond to the accountability of economists pointing out trends and business models were bottom line rules and ethical consideration are seen as an actual hindrence to growth. For example, do you think technology is disproportionately invested in, on the one hand, designing more effective instruments of destruction, and on the other helping industries pour out new customers to protect us from them? I would like to see economists pionting more to quality of life indicators than abstract numbers like GDP.

tomstandage9 karma

We do consider other indicators, and have written about this quite often. Before the financial crisis lots of people were saying that there was more to life than chasing GDP growth. We've since had a few years of slow and negative growth, and I think that has reminded people that a lack of GDP growth can be really painful. We were taking growth for granted.

Noway_Man1 karma

How do you see Newsweek's transition into an all-digital format? I believe that The Economist has a much wider international appeal and stronger subscription base. (I am from India and a regular reader). But you can't help but consider that print format will decrease in its viability going forward.

tomstandage7 karma

Yes, our print circulation is over 1.5m but we think this is the top, and we expect it to decline. (We keep saying that, but it doesn't. But it will.) That said, we hope that the number of subscribers will continue to increase, as we sign up more digital-only subscribers. We currently have 150,000 digital-only subscribers, and we also have 600,000 people (both subscribers and non-subscribers) using our apps each week. The important thing for us is to deliver distinctive content that readers will pay for; whether it's on paper or a screen, or in audio format, is not really the point. Our aim is to deliver our content in whatever form our readers want it; we are not wedded to print.

On Newsweek, I think they tried everything last year to try to get people to buy their print edition, and it didn't work. So going all-digital makes sense. The bigger question for them, and for every publication (including us), is whether what they produce is distinctive enough to get people to subscribe. If people can get essentially the same thing elsewhere for free, then you've got a problem.

TSBcat1 karma

Most technology stuff in the Economist is in the Business section. Why? And how big is the Economist's tech editorial team?

tomstandage2 karma

It depends how you define "technology stuff". The way I see it, technology stuff starts off in the Science pages: boffin invents thing, and we write about it. Then people start to commercialise it. Technology Quarterly, which I edit, is where we cover new innovations as they move from the lab to the marketplace. Then it becomes a business, and we write about it in the Business pages. So, stem cells: Science pages. Medical add-ons for smartphones: TQ. Facebook's share price: Business pages.

The Economist has tech correspondents in San Francisco and London who write mainly for the Business pages. It also has three people on the Science desk. Then there's me, when I'm wearing my Technology Quarterly hat. And we have lots of stringers who write for us on a freelance basis, both for print and for our Babbage blog.

Overall, The Economist is small: we have only 80 or so journalists on the staff. I think this is one of our strengths: that's smaller than the Dunbar number, so it's possible for everyone to know everyone else on the staff. The whole hive-mind approach probably wouldn't work otherwise.

blacksheeping1 karma

Hi Mr Standard. In certain elections, such as the recent American election the economist recommended readers voting for one candidate over another. How is this decision made within the economist.

tomstandage3 karma

We have a debate at the editorial meeting, and then we decide who to endorse. Some such decisions are easier to make than others!

collierre0 karma

An accusation levelled at the economist that I think has some value, is that the 'no bylines' policy coupled with the authoritative house style gives you an unjustified omniscient reputation.

Do you think people who say this have a point?

This may come across as a bit dickish, I do actually like the economist a lot.

tomstandage9 karma

Yes, I can see why people say that. But a lot of editorials in other publications are also anonymous and are also written in that tone, so we're not alone. I think our reputation really depends on how well we do our reporting, writing and analysis. People seem to want to pay to read The Economist, and I don't think it's because they've been fooled by our "voice of god" house style -- I think it's because they value our content.

cit-journo-5 karma

Cool to see you on here Tom.

What percentage of Economist traffic is mobile, and are you going adaptive, responsive, both or neither? Also, which would you rather battle? 100 duck-sized horses, or 1 horse-sized duck?

tomstandage2 karma

We're at about 17% traffic from mobile at the moment, so we're in the process of retooling our site to make it more mobile-friendly. That will involve some new tricks we haven't done before, which we are having lots of fun building. Stay tuned. On the duck/horse question, I refer the right-honourable gentleman to the answer I gave a few moments ago -- as we say in these parts.