Economist CEO: Flipboard is a direct competitor, printed news will be dead in 25 years

by Doug Drinkwater

April 30 2012

The Economist CEO Andrew Rashbass admits Flipboard is now a "head-on" competitor
The Economist CEO Andrew Rashbass admits Flipboard is now a "head-on" competitor

Speaking at a conference in Madrid recently, The Economist CEO Andrew Rashbass said that an all-digital news experience is drawing closer, with news aggregating services like Flipboard now established as "head-on" competitors to printed publications with tablet editions.

““Print circulation is at record highs. We’re holding on to it as long as possible – but my view of what’s possible is more pessimistic than a lot of other people’s. It’s not fashionable to say it, but I think, frankly, it will be all digital”, said Rashbass, when quizzed about the future of printed news at the Paley Center international council in Madrid, Spain late last week.

“I don’t know when it will be exactly, but the idea that mass printing of paper in 25 years is odd.”

During his talk at the conference, The Economist CEO did however appear more wary on the emergence of tablet content aggregating services like Flipboard, even if he did admit that Mike McCue’s firm has now become a direct competitor.

“It’s not a creative reimagining in some way - it’s a head-on competitor”, said Rashbass, who went onto seemingly complain about the ability for news aggregators to 'cherry-pick' content from third-party publishers. “You’re heading down a route we’ve seen before – giving the opportunity to extract value to somebody else in an area that should be our own – so Flipboard is problematic.”

Rashbass was not so bothered by Apple’s 30% cut on The Economist’s iPad edition. “I don’t find the 30 percent problem problematic. The majority of people in this room have always worked through third parties – whether through newsstands or other things. Even we have always have a newsstand presence.”

The Economist has had a fair amount of success with its tablet edition, which as well as being praised for its layout and usability, has seen some strong figures in terms of downloads and in-app purchases. Rashbass also believes that the tablet edition is more in keeping with the reading experience of the printed magazine, and not so long ago dubbed tablet reading as the ‘Lean Back 2.0’ experience.

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