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The Economist Defends Its Paywall While Its Most Listened-To Show Stays Free.


With 2.5 million unique listeners per month, The Intelligence is the most listened-to show produced by The Economist. It is also the only show that the publisher will now offer without a subscription. In an interview the Press Gazette, The Economist’s Director of Podcast John Prideaux is defending their decision to put the remainder of the brand’s shows behind a paywall.


Unlike many newspapers and magazines, The Economist has resisted allowing people to read its website content for free and relying on advertising to monetize the content. That ran up against its podcast efforts. “I can only speak for The Economist, but if you’re trying to sell a subscription to a journalism product and also at the same time giving away lots of your journalism without charge – that’s a strange thing to do and doesn’t make a whole load of sense,” Prideaux told the Press Gazette. The decision was also driven by some discomfort in the magazine’s newsroom about podcast host doing live-read ads. “It’s just so against our DNA at The Economist,” he said.


In September, the magazine launched Economist Podcasts+, a new subscription service that will be home to its podcasts. All of the magazine’s podcasts will only be available to subscribers – with one exception: its daily new series The Intelligence. It says a sample of weekly shows and limited series podcasts will also be available to non-subscribers. Helping make that decision was a doubling of The Economist’s podcast audience during the past three years to five million monthly unique listeners.


Prideaux – who is also U.S. Editor – told the Press Gazette that the move toward subscriptions had been under consideration since last year but it was eased by changes at Apple Podcasts that made it easier for link their subscriptions from outside content providers. He predicts more publishers will do the same, saying “logic” will convince them not to cannibalize their subscription businesses by offering content on podcast for free.


The new service costs $5 per month or $50 per year, and customers subscribing between now and launch will receive 50% off an annual subscription. Subscribers to The Economist will get all of the benefits of Economist Podcasts+ at no additional cost. Subscribers will not be able to sidestep all ads, however. The Economist is still featuring sponsor messages at the start of an episode.


The rise of a paywall comes as The Economist launches a new Saturday edition of its morning news show called The Weekend Intelligence. The weekend version will also be hosted by weekday hosts Ore Ogunbiyi and Jason Palmer. It will feature narrative storytelling and deeper reporting from The Economist’s writers around the world.


It is also launching a new limited-runs series on management called Boss Class. In it, host Andrew Palmer will bring the wry sensibility of the magazine’s popular Bartleby newspaper management column as he takes on the future of management with CEOs, anthropologists and experts on everything from hiring to hybrid work.


The Press Gazette reports that The Economist’s podcast team includes more than two dozen people, making up one in ten of its editorial employees.

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