How can the Economist -- expensive, few ads, limited online presence -- be thriving in the digital age when so many other weekly news magazines are in trouble? The Atlantic makes an intriguing point about the value of insight as opposed to simply offering lots of info:
Now that information is infinitely replicable and pervasive, original reporting will never again receive its due. The real value of the Economist lies in its smart analysis of everything it deems worth knowing—and smart packaging, which may be the last truly unique attribute in the digital age.
I'm not sure I'd go that far. Someone still has to go out there and do original reporting. But "original reporting" is not stenography. The task of relating informaiton from a press conference or event has become commodity news, and that field is overcrowded. Now that it's so easy to see reports from so many sources about, say, a presidential press conference or major vendor product announcement, you can find hundreds of similar stories about such things. How many are actually needed? Some, without question. But I doubt we need the number we have now.
Successful publishers must either find less crowded niches or more useful way of serving broader markets. Those who want to play in the breaking news space must also deliver authoritative, useful analysis. That's also "original reporting."
The biggest favor we can do for our audience is to help them deal with information overload. People already have plenty of random acts of information. Ultimately, we need to respond to the same questions I was asking reporters to answer 20 years ago:
Why does this matter?
Those are the questions the Economist helps its readers answer, and what those of us publishing in any format must address if we expect our audience to invest their time in what we do.