This week The Economist of London began looking for a new editor. Bill Emmott, who has done the job for the past 13 years, announced he was stepping down. For me, this was a notable event. I, too, am an old Economist hand; and I was Emmott's deputy for more than 10 years, until last summer when I came to Washington to work for Atlantic Media, owner of National Journal. I have self-indulgently decided that my old boss's departure licenses me (or at any rate can be seized upon as an excuse) to reflect on the paper's remarkable standing in Washington and its broader success in the United States and around the world.
Thinking about this phenomenon, I hope, may serve a slightly larger purpose than nostalgia. The Economist's experience may say something about prospects for the industry that delivers news and analysis to curious readers everywhere. It may even—forgive an acquired propensity to overstate the case—say something about the world.
The success of the magazine—or "newspaper," as it insists—is incontestable. The worldwide circulation has roughly doubled over the past 10 years and stands at more than a million. The United States accounts for about half: The Economist now sells more than three times as many copies in America as in its domestic British market. The balance is spread over the rest of the world, with substantial and ever-growing numbers of readers in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. The paper's growth has run counter to a nearly universal trend of declining circulation of newspapers and general-interest news magazines.