The latest series, which began Tuesday and runs through tonight, focuses on North and South Korea. Each night featured a five-minute segment produced by The Economist and CNN, keyed to the 15-page special report published in this week's edition of the magazine. Each segment was followed by an interview with experts on North and South Korea, including former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and businessman Wilbur Ross.
Mark Carter, a former executive at CNN and TV correspondent who is produced the segments for The Economist, said the idea grew out of a realization that the upscale, well-educated audiences of Lou Dobbs Moneyline and The Economist could complement each other with a project like this. The Economist, which specializes in long think pieces that blend in-depth reporting and analysis, could provide the same on television and that Moneyline would be the place for it.
"From an audience perspective, it makes a lot of sense. They're very discerning audiences, they care about content from an editorial perspective," Carter said.
"It's quality news coverage for smart people, people who have a starting point or a background in terms of news and current affairs and really the geopolitical lay of the land. That's a good match for us, for our viewers, and readers of The Economist too," said Bill Dorman, executive producer of Lou Dobbs Moneyline.
The first Economist-CNN project started in the months following 9/11, with a three-part series that ran in May 2002 on Lou Dobbs Moneyline, focusing on American leadership that was keyed to an in-depth article on the same subject in The Economist. An hourlong special on the American intelligence apparatus aired at the end of last year and was tied to a special yearbook edition of The Economist. Production of the TV segments and The Economist article by Brian Barry began separately earlier this year.
Justin Hendrix, brand marketing executive at The Economist, said the choice of Korea as a topic was long before its most recent turn on the headlines. He noted that last year's special focused on Iraq long before the war began but both he and Dorman think it's more luck with the timing than anything else.
It isn't the first time 160-year-old publication has dabbled in broadcast. A half-hour Economist TV ran for a time in airport lounges but never made it to full distribution. A more successful partnership, with Public Radio International, runs on PRI's weekday business-news program Marketplace. The radio show features interviews and other reports by Economist staff, up to 75 every year.
The CNN-Economist partnership isn't to the level of the one forged between Discovery Communications Inc. and The New York Times, which led to the recent launch of The Discovery Times Channel. Hendrix and Carter say the CNN-Economist deal is more of a branding effort on The Economist's part. It's also editorially driven, a response to coverage by the magazine, although Fidelity has been signed on as a sponsor for The Challenge of Change: The New Korea.
"It's one of those things that started out small and has worked in, starting from the branding side," Dorman said.
Dorman said that these kind of partnerships could become more prevalent going forward in the broadcast industry, where the target audiences are matched by both a print and broadcast property. "For us, now, the scale is small but certainly it can grow as it makes sense," he said.
Carter said the series is all about the content. The next project, tied to The Economist's 160th anniversary, will focus on capitalism. That will run in June. Hendrix said the editors start with the extensive process that goes with creating the magazine and then build a television product that resembles it.
"It comes down to smart content. A lot of people talk about it but this is delivering smart, provocative, interesting television. It can still survive in the marketplace. For many people, that's an exciting prospect," said Carter.