View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

Prospect CEO has ‘fixed the plumbing’ and is now looking for growth

Interview with Prospect CEO Mark Beard and editor in chief Alan Rusbridger.

By Dominic Ponsford

Does slow journalism have a future?

Sir Clive Cowdery’s Resolution Group is betting that it does and has invested in a new app, website and audio schedule for Prospect magazine.

The title has a relatively new leadership team in the shape of chief executive Mark Beard, who joined from The Economist in January 2023, and former Guardian editor in chief Alan Rusbridger, who has been editor since September 2021.

Since launching in 1995 Prospect’s brand of thoughtful, less partisan writing on politics and culture has failed to take off in the way that, say, far more established news monthly The Atlantic has in the US (which now has more than one million subscribers across print and digital).

Prospect’s monthly print circulation has dwindled in recent years and now stands at 17,630 (12,106 subscriptions and 3,310 newsstand). Digital subscriptions currently stand at 13,444 (down from 15,120 in 2021).

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

But CEO Beard told Press Gazette the title is now eyeing growth, having gone through a period he described as “fixing the plumbing”.

Content from our partners
New technology from EX.CO helps publishers double on-site video revenue
Five ways to fail in media job interviews
How Germany's Ippen.Media mastered content planning across 86 newsrooms

This has included a new app developed by Pugpig, which went live last month, and a new website launched last year on Glide Publishing Platform. Another leading tech provider, Piano, is running the paywall side of things.

Like The Economist, Prospect offers readers a digital subscription (£49 per year) or a print and digital bundle (£79). There is no print-only subscription option. Users of the website are able to read three articles per month before being told to subscribe.

‘Much bigger market’ available for Prospect journalism

The title is not profitable but has a philanthropic owner in the shape of Cowdery who also owns think tank the Resolution Foundation, which is dedicated to improving living standards for those on low incomes. Prospect shares a large Georgian house with the foundation just off Parliament Square where The Spectator and Unherd are near neighbours.

Beard said the plan is for Prospect to be funded by two-thirds reader revenue (subscriptions and newsstand) with the remaining third coming from advertising/sponsorship and events – the same split as The Atlantic.

He said: “When I arrived we had a print magazine we could be proud of. We’ve spent the last 12 months building and adding digital platforms.”

Read more: What’s next for The Atlantic after reaching profitability and 1m subscribers

In addition to the magazine, website, app and two weekly podcasts Prospect runs three weekly newsletters (politics, culture and a weekly round-up of Prospect coverage) and has been expanding its roster of ticketed and sponsored events. A recent debate between journalist David Aaronovitch and politics professor Matthew Goodwin at Conway Hall in London sold out in 72 hours at £30 per head.

Prospect attracts around 250,000 website users per month and 50,000 podcast downloads. Within that, Beard said he is particularly pleased with the 85% podcast listen-through rate. Registered users are said to be rising rapidly as is engagement with the app.

Despite the headwinds many media businesses are seeing, Beard said he has reasons to be optimistic about Prospect’s future: “All the data and research tells us there is a much bigger market for the kind of trusted in-depth journalism which Prospect is known for.

“When you are going through a digital transformation like we are here it’s important to balance the need to do things quickly with doing things properly. I believe the commercials should be as good as the journalism. We do it with excellence or we don’t do it at all.”

Alan Rusbridger on going from 800-strong newsroom to team of ten

Prospect operates independently of the Resolution Foundation. Asked where its political affiliations lie, editor Rusbridger said: “My pitch to Clive was that there is a big gap in the centre, The New Statesman is on one side and The Spectator is on the other.”

He said that readers want a magazine that offers different viewpoints and treats all ideas with respect.

He cited Jonathan Powell’s piece on how to solve the Ukraine-Russia conflict as an example of where Prospects adds to the debate. He said: “At some point Russia and Ukraine must sit down. It is not what people are talking about at the moment but they will have to in the future.”

A recent long-read on GB News backer Sir Paul Marshall painted him as neither the devil or a saint but provided a more nuanced picture of a powerful philanthropist and businessman driven by strong religious and political convictions.

Whilst editing The Guardian, Rusbridger created a slow news department as a response to the ever-hastening pace of journalism. There, staff were encouraged to read books and have lunch with contacts, Rusbridger said. The Guardian Long Reads section continues to this day.

He’s taken that faith in deeper reporting away from the daily news agenda to Prospect: “People can get bite-sized information everywhere now, but they will read a properly meaty piece on something that matters. “

Asked how his current job compares with his role at The Guardian, which he left in 2016 after 20 years, he said: “The Guardian was publishing 24/7 around the clock with 800 editorial staff and we were doing it in the middle of a digital revolution. So the amount of journalism you could do was quite limited.

“Here I have a newsroom of ten so I’m involved in subbing, writing and reporting. It’s rather nice to go back to getting your hands dirty.

“I did a cover piece on the BBC and to be able to go back to reporting, ringing people, asking questions and constructing a narrative was something I hadn’t done for a long time.”

Asked what his editorial formula is for Prospect, Rusbridger said: “The biggest danger is being distracted by the news agenda. We are never going to compete day to day with the likes of The Guardian and The Times. We have to win by being smarter and asking ourselves ‘what are they not doing, what’s going to happen?’

“There are big gaps and that is where we win.”

Topics in this article : ,

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network