Review – The Economist

This week we look at Economist.com which provides a very useful starting point in the investment puzzle: Institutional Consensus.

Consensus

If you want to know what the majority of leading decision makers think about any given issue globally, you can find it in the pages of The Economist. Within its classically written pages, the Economist tackles most of the issues of the world from what it views as the enlightened viewpoint of its founding editors. Why is it important to know what consensus is? Because that is the center of gravity around which markets will trade. By reading the Economist regularly, you will have a good understanding of what underpins current financial market conditions. Then, as you encounter new ideas and data elsewhere, you can start to suss out where the markets are likely to head.

What in the World is Going on in the World?

The other useful gap that The Economist fills is to keep one informed about what is going on in the rest of the world. The regular reporting has a healthy weighting of US, UK and European bias but it also looks at all the other regions of the world in a fairly systematic fashion. As the developed world spends the next decade climbing out of the wreckage left behind from the Debt Super Cycle, the most promising investment opportunities may not always have a G7 address attached. The Economist regularly runs special surveys of new opportunities, new technology, country specials and regional roundups. Most mainstream media suffers from a short term and a US focus. The Economist is a balanced starting point for any investor who is looking to capture the best investment opportunities available. The information and opinions presented in The Economist is broad but also deep enough to allow you to hold your own in serious conversations with knowledgeable counterparts anywhere in the world.

How to approach it

There are three ways to approach The Economist:

  1. Print Subscription: This is great if you spend lots of time in airports or commuting on public transportation. The prose tends towards stuffy English aristocratic so you are unlikely to skim through it in a single sitting. If you see someone get on a trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific flight with a stack of Economist magazines, you are probably looking at a hedge fund manager.
  2. Online Edition: If you are just looking to skim through articles and look through back issues, the website is well designed. It also contains a whole section of useful economic indicators which are also found in the back of the print magazine. This is best if you are already familiar with the magazine.
  3. Audio Edition: This is my preferred method because I spend a fair amount of time on the road and at the gym. It usually takes about six to seven hours to get through a weeks worth of content and the iPod podcast picks up right where I left off.

Cost

Some of the site is free but most of the good stuff can only be accessed via subscription. The Economist will ship their magazine anywhere in the world and if you subscribe, you get full access to the web. The prices vary widely depending on where you live and whether you qualify for a student discount. Personally, I find a web only subscription (US$95 a year) works for me as I have switched to the audio edition after years of subscribing to the print edition.