Direct Marketer of the Year: Beth O’Rorke, COO and Vice President, The Economist
Playing by the old rules—and winning big.
In 1981, Beth O’Rorke had been out of work for three months after spending a year as circulation manager for a start-up magazine called Prime Time, which had run out of money. Robert Cohn of the PDC circulation modeling consultancy steered O’Rorke to The Economist, a British magazine that needed someone to take charge of its direct mail, which she could do in her sleep.
On her way to the interview with circulation director Peter Kennedy, O’Rorke bought a copy of the publication at a 42nd Street newsstand and blinked in disbelief. Here was a skinny little magazine printed on newsprint filled with gray walls of dense prose about world affairs. “It was the dullest thing I ever saw, and I wondered how in the world I could ever sell it,” recalls O’Rorke. Although she was apprehensive, the interview with Kennedy seemed to go well. All that remained was for her to meet Publisher Clive Greaves. When she walked into Greaves’ office, he told her to have a seat.
“I see you’ve been out of work for three months,” he said, studying her résumé.
“Why haven’t you found a job?”
“Nothing has come along that suits me and my experience.”
“Do you smoke?”
In the subsequent 20 years, O’Rorke has risen through the ranks from subscription manager for North America to COO and vice president for the Economist Newspaper Group, North America Inc.
Internally, the publication is referred to as “the newspaper” because of its early heritage of newsprint and because it is run like a newspaper with simultaneous closings of all sections all over the world. Although it is a weekly magazine, it is very different from its competitors—Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report—which purposely dumb down their prose to roughly a fifth-grade reading level with the hope of attracting a broad readership.
- 42nd Street