What people say they read online vs. What they really read online

March 18, 2009

Do people who say they read The Eco­nom­ist online really read The Eco­nom­ist online?

The paper’s Andreas Kluth has a great post that digs below the ‘what we say/what we do’ BS. (In the UK, ever wondered why so many people say they watch Chan­nel 4 News but then don’t actu­ally watch it?)

Here’s Andreas:

I keep think­ing about a young lady named Rebecca…

She was, I think, an MBA stu­dent at Stan­ford, obvi­ously super-bright and media-savvy, busy, ambi­tious, and all the rest of it. They asked her what her home page was. It was The Eco­nom­ist. So far so good.

She said a few more of the things that my col­leagues and I tend to hear when people first dis­cov­er that we work for The Eco­nom­ist. You know: glob­al, intel­li­gent, cos­mo­pol­it­an, and things along those lines. Then Rebecca vis­ibly got bored with her own bull­shit.

So how much of The Eco­nom­ist do you actu­ally read? her inter­view­er asked her.

Hardly any­thing, it turns out. And now Rebecca held forth: To be hon­est, she really only has The Eco­nom­ist as her home page because, well, that’s what one does in her circles. But she feels no con­nec­tion to it at all. To her, the tone is that of some robot-like gen­teel ali­en preach­ing to her about what she should know for the next cock­tail party…

[W]here does Rebecca go (if not, appar­ently, to her own home page)? She named a few sites. But the one she seems to “depend on” most, cur­rently, is The Sar­tori­al­ist.

…Offi­cially The Eco­nom­ist, but really The Sar­tori­al­ist. A site run by one man who

  • loves his subject–fashion in the world’s cos­mo­pol­it­an cit­ies
  • takes art­ful and intim­ate pic­tures
  • cares not a hoot about wheth­er any­body agrees with his taste, and
  • is rewar­ded by a grow­ing and steady fol­low­ing (largely from the same demo­graph­ic as The Eco­nom­ist’s) for pre­cisely that authen­ti­city…

Here we are at The Eco­nom­ist – hav­ing pow­wows about the future, bask­ing in our no-bylines eccent­ri­cit­ies – while the Rebec­cas out there politely keep us as their homepage, then bug­ger off to some oth­er place that “gets” it. We would be fool­ish, and soul­less, not to pay atten­tion to Rebecca.

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