The Economist Hands All Digital Strategy To Its Tablet Chief

The Economist is handing control of its website to its tablet magazines controller, in a bid to unite the previously competitive units.

Oscar Grut, who was formerly digital editions managing director, has been promoted to the new role of managing director for “Economist Digital” as a whole.

A spokesperson tells paidContent it is “a role which has been created to reflect the change of business strategy within The Economist Group”.

The Economist’s tablet app editions and the website were previously run as two separate strands. Nick Blunden has run since online EVP Ben Edwards left to be IBM’s digital strategy VP in 2010. Blunden will now report to Grut rather than to Economist UK managing director Nigel Ludlow.

It is a sign that, after years of struggling to make money and native products on the web, publishers increasingly view digital editions – familiar reversioning of their core legacy titles – as their primary digital products.

The Economist launched its iPad app edition in November 2010 with a mostly bundled strategy – free to print-and-web and to web-only subscribers, or £3.49/$5.99/€4.99 per single copy. It claimed a million monthly tablet and smartphone readers in November.

The title is now bullish about the “rebirth of leanback media” thanks to app editions. Just like with many publishers, the relative audience and commercial success in migrating magazines to tablets prompts The Economist to recontextualise its web strategy – what is for anymore?

Although The Economist’s print circulation bucks industry trends by rising, the publisher believes that, at some point in the near future, this will go down as more and more readers choose the tablet or e-reader format, a spokesperson tells paidContent.

Grut’s background is law. He joined The Economist in 1998 and became general counsel within three years.

On Monday, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) approved an iPad app edition of The Economist’s World In Figures statistics book, free with sponsorship from Grant Thornton.