Headphones
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The Economist is considering providing an audio-only subscription, according to Nick Blunden, global digital publisher of the title.

The weekly print title, which is also available online and has apps for seven digital platforms, said the move would be to build on the popularity of the audio edition and podcasts.

The Economist offers both word-for-word audio versions of the print and digital editions and a range of podcasts, with a high take up of subscribers choosing to listen to content rather than to read the magazine.

Blunden told Digital Media Strategies, a two-day conference taking place in London, that people even listen to The Economist while swimming, a fact reported on by Journalism.co.uk in this feature on the audio offerings.

Audio represents "an opportunity to create new habits", he said in the keynote speech.

Blunden also talked about the "unbundling project", explaining that The Economist has altered its pricing structure – and has found that people are willing to pay more for a print and digital bundle.

An annual print-only subscription now costs $127, a digital-only subscription also costs $127, whereas the print and digital bundle costs $165. It is more expensive – but 50 per cent of subscribers choose a bundle, he said.

A total of 25 per-cent choose print-only, 25 per cent choose digital-only, and the remaining 50 per cent choose the bundle.

He explained that the title which launched in 1843 took 160 years to reach 1 million subscribers and then just nine years to reach 1.6 million, with "a huge amount of that growth" driven by digital. He said that an audited report published last year found that The Economist had 1.5m print subscribers, 600,000 app users worldwide, and 7 million monthly unique users of Economist.com, a site with a metered paywall.

The Economist has also benefited from "mass intelligence", Blunden said. "The internet has made intelligent analysis more not less valuable," he added, explaining that "people are looking for order in the information chaos".

Blunden also said their is a need to "think beyond the magazine". He said that in the same way that online video streaming service Netflix has created its own original series House of Cards and is challenging the business model of TV, publishers must also be aware of game changers for the news industry.

He told the conference: "The biggest opportunity for us and for other publishers in this room may be when we stop thinking of ourselves as a newspaper or magazine."

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