Founded by the socialist Fabian Society and long regarded as the internal journal of Britain’s Labor Party, New Statesman magazine describes its editor as the greatest expansion in its 108-year history – funded by a computer industry entrepreneur.
The editor, Jason Cowley, has set his sights on engaging an overseas readership – with a focus on the US, Germany and France – in an effort to nearly triple his paid readership to 100,000 and the international success of others To mimic UK-based readers. publications such as The Economist.
“The UK has suddenly become very interesting,” Cowley said. “Because of Brexit, because of Boris Johnson, because of the potential break – up of the United Kingdom. The crisis of the British Constitution is a big topic. We find these are topics that an international audience wants to read about.
“We have convinced the owner that we are a title worthy of investment,” he added, referring to Mike Danson, founder of London-listed market research firm GlobalData. “We have an investment plan.”
Other current business titles are also growing their readers, counteracting a long-term decline in the broader UK magazine sector that has forced some publications to drop pressure.
The total number of UK print magazines sold fell by 55 per cent between 2010 and 2019 to 660 million, according to research firm Enders Analysis. The pandemic accelerated the decline and circulation dropped to 513m last year.
In contrast, sales of The Spectator, the New Statesman’s right-of-center rival, are higher than ever. In the U.S., readership of The Atlantic increased by 24 percent year-on-year in the first six months of 2021, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, compared to an 18.4 percent decrease for magazines in general.
“We’re all bombarded with information, and a weekly summary just makes a lot of sense,” said Douglas McCabe, CEO of Enders Analysis.
“This is a very resilient sector,” he added, drawing a comparison with other genres that are “almost disappearing,” such as celebrity gossip and men’s interest.
Since becoming editor in 2008, Cowley has brought in fresh voices, published longer essays and tried to make the New Statesman more politically “unpredictable” by weakening his ties with Labor. The title launched a digital payment wall two years ago and the website was recently re-launched, along with a redesigned print title.
After decades of declining circulation and underinvestment, the strategy began to bear fruit: total paid readership rose from less than 20,000 when Cowley took over to 36,000. About 17,000 of these are print only, with the rest either digital or printed and digital bundles.
Perhaps surprisingly for a title whose traditional mainstay is British politics, about a third of the New Statesman’s online readers are in North America. More live in New York than any British city except London.
“The ideas and the areas in which we are interested – ESG [environmental, social and corporate governance], global economy, crisis of liberalism – we think there is a big market for us outside the UK, ”Cowley said.
Among the editorial posts he wants to fill are a Brussels bureau chief, an Asia editor and a writer on China.
An increased editorial budget is provided by Danson, which took a 50 per cent stake in 2008 after acquiring £ 165 million from the sale of its Datamonitor business to Informa. The following year, he bought the rest of the magazine from Geoffrey Robinson, former paymaster general in Tony Blair’s government.
His other media interests include the luxury lifestyle title Spears and the Press Gazette trade magazine, as well as a majority stake in GlobalData, whose market capitalization has risen to £ 1.6 billion. But he keeps a low profile.
“He wants to manage it [the New Statesman] as a business: it’s not a vanity project, ”said another person close to Danson, who described his politics as” middle of the road “.
Danson’s deep pockets have already funded an appointment with the New Statesman, who over the past year has added about 16 journalists to the now 45 team, including Bloomberg’s Tim Ross to manage his British political coverage.
“I feel like a football coach with a transfer budget for the first time,” Cowley said. “Rather than retire during the Covid recession, Mike has invested.” The publication moves into new offices in Hatton Garden, London’s jewelery district, in the new year.
The magazine, founded in 1913 with the stated aim of “permeating the educated and influential classes with socialist ideas”, has – like the Labor Party – a decidedly less ideologically striking tone under its current editor.
“There were certain perceptions about the New Statesman: it was seen as a mouthpiece for the Labor Party, or a rainbow coalition of disgruntled left-wing voices. It did not interest me: the journalism I admire is skeptical, open-minded, of high quality. “
The journal was very critical of former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, who described Cowley in print as a “late-Seventies red brick university biology lecturer”, although he now admits the title “misread” his rise to leadership.
It was also skeptical of Corbyn’s successor, Sir Keir Starmer, who is running a special issue on Labor’s ‘crisis’ following the disappointing local election results this year. “I know Starmer found it very painful,” Cowley said of the issue.
Is he even a Labor supporter? “Personal? Not at the moment. “
He added that he still considered the publication “from” left. Yet it all probably sounds quite far from the Fabians’ ideals.
Won’t they turn in their graves? “No. The Fabians will be delighted. We are still interested in the interventionist state and the good that the government can do. It is true to the original Fabian mission. And we are as committed to quality as they were.”