ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

The Editors' Blog: An Introduction

Visitors to would have been noticing a number of changes on the site since late 2012.

A major new feature introduced in November 2012 was the “Web Exclusives” section which contains short articles on topical issues that are quickly published on the site long before they can make it to print. Then we started publishing the occasional Web Exclusive with images and data visualizations, something of a revolution for EPW.

Early this year, introduced the blog feature. A group of writers has begun to regularly blog about a range of contemporary issues from across the world.

Later we introduced the “Glimpses from the Past” section, where, dipping into our archives, we present the occasional article that is fascinating history and also offers a perspective on the past.

Most recently, we have started a “Reports from the States” section, exclusive to the web site, with news and comment on what is happening in the states.

With this blog, the Editors’ Blog, we begin yet another new feature – Editors of EPW will write on EPW.

The journal and its staff have always prided themselves on their anonymity. Now it is perhaps time for EPW to communicate with its vast readership.

But why?

There is a kind of mystery about EPW. From 1966 onwards (even longer if you consider the life of its antecedent, Economic Weekly, which was published from 1949 to 1965), EPW has published opinion on contemporary events alongside high-quality social science research. A unique combination of comment and research that is published every week.

We have been told that there is perhaps nothing like the EPW anywhere in the world.

How does EPW do it? The journal is not backed by any commercial publishing house. It is published by the Sameeksha Trust, which was established by a small group of public-spirited citizens and scholars who wanted to revive the Economic Weekly when it had to shut down. The Trust has never had a large corpus which it could draw on to fund publication. EPW does not receive and never has received any annual grant from a private or public body in India. It did receive a few one-time grants from institutions in the early 1990s and then again another few generous donations from a couple of individuals and institutions in the mid 2000s. The Sameeksha Trust also as a policy decided decades ago not to seek funds from abroad. And EPW carries very little advertising – the typical issue has 90-95% content and under 10% of paid advertisements.

So how has EPW been published without a break for 48 years? What, in management language, is EPW’s “revenue model”?

There are many other questions which we would like to and indeed need to answer in a conversation with our readers and writers.

Who decides what to publish in the journal and what to leave out?

Why is such a wide area of the social sciences and even the humanities covered in EPW? Why combine comment and research on the same pages?

“Who ‘owns’ EPW?” is another question that we are often asked.

Why does it seem to take a long time for an article to be published in EPW?

Are the research articles in EPW peer-reviewed?

Do we pay the writers of articles?

And then there are the questions about finances and production: Why are EPW’s archives on the net behind a pay wall? Why aren’t there ever any photographs in EPW?

Well, we at EPW would like to engage in a conversation with our critical and loyal reader about such questions, listen to suggestions (and criticism), and build on reader ideas and more.

This is what the Editors’ Blog is going to be.

It will be an occasional post. It may not cover everything of interest to every reader.

And we obviously cannot address questions about individual articles or authors in this blog.

We will though certainly try and share with you what EPW does and why. And also write about what we may be planning as new features in the print and web editions.

A good topic to start the blog may well be a recent event -- what seemed like a break in publication in end June and the twin phenomenon of publication of a 2-volume issue of 1200 pages, the combined issue of 28 June and 5 July. The issue had less than 250 pages of editorial matter, the rest were advertisements.

In EPW we simply call it the “end-June” issue.

As the end-June issue has slowly grown in size, many readers have been puzzled with its thickness when it arrives at the doorstep. Some have written to express their irritation at having to search for articles in an ocean of advertisements. And some have indeed been angry that we give so much space to advertisements by financial institutions.

EPW needs to make ends meet. To do so, it has only income from sales of the journal and from advertising as revenue.

Readers would have noticed that every week EPW carries a few pages of “academic” advertising – for books, appointments, educational courses and conferences. But those are just 3-4 pages a week and do not yield an adequate income.

In the mid-1990s, when the small amount of consumer advertising we used to receive had disappeared and goodwill public sector advertising had begun to decline, our team of two dedicated advertising executives sought new sources of revenue.

Statutory advertisements were one possible source. But no government would advertise tenders or appointments in EPW; we therefore looked elsewhere.

According to government and RBI rules, banks are required to publish their balance sheets in an economic/financial/commercial publication which is published at least once a week and to do so within three months of the end of a financial year. We are an economic publication and we are a weekly, so we decided to approach banks for these advertisements.

Slowly, in the mid-1990s, a few banks began to publish their balance sheets in EPW. That number has gradually grown over the past two decades as more and more both Indian and foreign banks have begun operations in the country. The length of the balance sheets has also grown as disclosure requirements by law have expanded. And banks have to meet an end June deadline as laid down in the rules.

All this explains why beginning in late May and ending in the last week of June (with a bit of spill-over) there are a large number of banks advertising in EPW and why the end-June issue in particular has become very large.

In 2012 we found that we could not meet deadlines with the end-June issue published as one volume. We therefore split the issue into two. Since the last issue of June was when we always published the Review of Agriculture/Review of Rural Affairs, we thought it made sense to have some advertisements with the general issue and a few with the Review in a separate volume.

Why do all the banks advertise their balance sheets in EPW? They all do not. Many more Indian and foreign, public and private, banks do not place their balance sheets in EPW.

But why do those that do, do so?

Our much lower advertisement rates is one explanation.

The quality of service is another. The balance sheets need to be composed, formatted, proof-read, sent to the advertisers for corrections, corrected or modified, checked again and only then sent to press. All in the matter of a few days. For about a fortnight, EPW’s production team works seven days a week and 10-12 hours a day to meet the requirements of the advertisers – and to be error free. Nerves get frayed during those two weeks, eyes turn bleary and tempers rise…but we meet the deadlines. And we probably do everything satisfactorily so word must have got around.

For ease of reading, from this year, we have separated the articles from the advertisements – the articles are all at the beginning and the advertisements come later. Readers therefore do not have to search for the editorial text. We also try to offer more to readers. This year, in addition to the Review of Rural Affairs, we had a special section on Pakistan, more commentaries than usual and the full complement of regular features

An independent journal that is not bankrolled by any organisation needs revenue to stand on its feet. That is why we also call the end-June issue our “bread and butter” issue. So we seek our readers’ support for publishing this two-volume issue once a year.

We will continue to look for more advertising, including more statutory advertising. As we said, many more banks do not advertise in EPW as do. And not a single mutual fund has advertised its quarterly statements in the journal so far.

A higher income will make EPW more financially secure and help it give much more to its readers and writers. But for now we make do with what we earn and remain committed to publishing 50 issues a year.

(By the way, we take a holiday from publishing EPW during the Diwali/Deepavali week and combine two issues once a year. That is why we publish 50 and not 52 issues annually.)

About Author

Back to Top