The left-wing newspaper capitalizes on the growing interest in British politics abroad

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Founded by the socialist Fabian Society and long regarded as the British Labor Party’s in-house magazine, New Statesman magazine is embarking on what its publisher describes as the largest expansion in its 108-year history, funded by a data entrepreneur.

Editor, Jason Cowley, decided to engage an overseas audience – with a focus on the US, Germany and France – in an effort to triple his paid readership to 100,000 and emulate the international success of other based readers. in the UK, publications such as The Economist.

“The UK suddenly got pretty interesting,” Cowley said. “Because of Brexit, because of Boris Johnson, because of the potential breakup of the UK. The crisis of the British constitution is a big topic. We find these to be topics an international audience wants to read about.

“We have convinced the owner that we are a worthy stock,” he added, referring to Mike Danson, founder of London-listed market research firm GlobalData. “We have an investment plan.”

Brexit and the potential UK breakup have made British politics much more attractive to international readers © FT Montage / New Statesman

Other news headlines are also increasing their readership, countering a long-term decline in the broader UK magazine sector that has forced some publications out of print.

The total number of print journals sold in the UK dropped 55% between 2010 and 2019 to 660 million, according to research firm Enders Analysis. The pandemic accelerated the decline and circulation dropped to 513 million last year.

By contrast, sales of The Spectator, the New Statesman’s center-left rival, are higher than ever. In the United States, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, readers of The Atlantic increased 24% year-on-year in the first six months of 2021, compared to an 18.4% decline for magazines overall.

“We are all bombarded with information and a weekly summary seems to make a lot of sense,” said Douglas McCabe, CEO of Enders Analysis.

“This is a very resilient industry,” he added, comparing it to other genres that “are almost disappearing,” such as celebrity gossip and male interest.

Since becoming a publisher in 2008, Cowley has brought in new voices, published longer essays, and sought to make the New Statesman more politically “unpredictable” by loosening his ties with Labor. The title introduced a digital paywall two years ago and the website was recently relaunched, along with a redesigned print title.

After decades of dwindling circulation and underinvestment, the strategy began to pay off: total paid readers went from under 20,000 when Cowley took over to 36,000. About 17,000 of these are print-only, with the rest being digital-only or print and digital bundles.

Perhaps surprisingly for a title whose mainstay is British politics, roughly a third of the New Statesman’s online readers are in North America. More people live in New York than in any other city in the UK besides London.

“The ideas and areas that interest us – ESG [environmental, social and corporate governance], global economy, crisis of liberalism: we think there is a big market for us beyond the UK, “Cowley said.

New Statesman editor Jason Cowley tried to make the magazine more “unpredictable” by loosening its ties to the Labor Party © FT Montage / New Statesman

Among the editorial positions he is seeking to fill are a head of the Brussels office, a publisher for Asia and a writer on China.

A larger publishing budget is provided by Danson, which acquired a 50% stake in 2008 after obtaining £ 165 million from the sale of its Datamonitor business to Informa. The following year he bought the rest of the magazine from Geoffrey Robinson, a former paying officer in Tony Blair’s government.

His other media interests span luxury lifestyle title Spears and trade magazine Press Gazette, as well as a majority stake in GlobalData, whose market capitalization has grown to £ 1.6 billion. But it keeps a low profile.

“He wants to manage it [the New Statesman] as a business: it is 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 a wave of hiring at the New Statesman, adding around 16 reporters to the now 45-member team over the past year, including Bloomberg’s Tim Ross to manage his political coverage in the UK.

“I feel like a football manager on a transfer budget for the first time,” Cowley said. “Rather than downsizing during the Covid recession, Mike invested.” The publication will move to new offices in Hatton Garden, London’s jewelry district, in the new year.

The first edition of the New Statesman of 1913 and 1959 © FT Montage / New Statesman

Formed in 1913 with the stated aim of “permeating the educated and influential classes with socialist ideas,” the magazine – just like the Labor Party – has a decidedly less ideologically strident tone under its current editor.

“There were some perceptions about the New Statesman: He was seen as a spokesperson for the Labor Party, or a rainbow coalition of discontented leftist voices. It didn’t interest me: the journalism I admire is skeptical, open-minded, of high quality ».

The paper was highly critical of former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, whom Cowley described in the press as akin to “a red brick university sociology lecturer in the late 1970s,” though he now acknowledges that the headline “has misinterpreted “his rise to leadership.

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn protest outside the New Statesman office in 2017 claiming he is biased against him © Matthew Chattle / Alamy

He was also skeptical of Corbyn’s successor, Sir Keir Starmer, who published a special issue on the Labor “crisis” following the disappointing results of this year’s local elections. “I know Starmer found it very painful,” Cowley said of the edition.

Are you also a supporter of the Labor Party? “Personally? Not at the moment.”

He added that he still regards the publication as “left-wing”. Yet everything seems quite far from the ideals of the Fabians.

Won’t they turn in the grave? “No. The Fabians would be happy. We are still interested in the interventionist state and the good the government can do. This is true of Fabian’s original mission. And we are as committed to quality as they are.”

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