More than 50 per cent of those using the free app are paying to view content, with others accessing the limited "editor's highlights" articles free. Around 20 per cent of print subscribers, who are able to access digital content at no extra cost, are using the iPad app regularly.
Tom Standage, digital editor of the title, revealed the stats during the Media Briefing's Mobile Media Strategies event, where he also signalled that the Economist is "watching the FT closely" following the Financial Times' release of its web-based HTML5 app.
Earlier this month the FT launched a hybrid app and mobile browser site that allows users to update the app through its website, rather than exclusively through Apple's App Store and therefore avoiding paying Apple a 30 per cent cut.
A digital subscription to the Economist, which includes access to articles online behind a part-paywall and the majority of content available to the iPhone and iPad apps, comes at no additional cost to print subscribers. "We are selling access to the content", Standage said.
Digital subscribers are able to read the Economist on a Thursday evening, before the print editions are delivered on a Friday.
In designing the app, Standage said the Economist did not want to add additional "pages" to the online version than are already available in the print edition as "the number one reason people cancel their subscriptions is because they don't have time to read it all".
"We wanted "encapsulation and finishibility", to give readers that feeling of satisfaction when they are able to finish an issue," Standage added.
An Economist Android app is due to be released shortly.