How The Economist engages audiences on the go

Espresso, which delivers bite-sized news every day to a progressive, younger, caffeine-fuelled audience, was the first product launch for The Economist in 173 years. Its journey from idea to fruition was outlined by Mark Beard, SVP of digital media and content strategy, and Iain Noakes, global digital acquisition journey and performance director with The Economist UK, at FIPP London Tuesday.

Espresso launched in November 2014. In the 14 months since then, they’ve generated 1.3 million downloads. The app offers a daily curated round up of news, a concise morning briefing, designed to be read on the go. It brings their audience up to speed, informs them of what they need to know to start the day. They have 450,000 downloads and rising.

Any good product starts with the audience, Beard said. “Our audience is defined as progressive, forward facing. They look at things beyond their own boarders, they are tech-curious. What we needed was a new product to reach those progressives, to fit within their busy schedules.”

Over 20 meetings, the name for the new product was discussed. “We discussed ‘The Daily Digest, The Daily Download, The Daily Bite, The Red, The Feed, The Hit, The 5:59,” Beard said. “Then, we started getting closer. This was a product that we thought people would consume on their commute.”

Someone in The Economist editorial department told us about their daily rite of drinking an expresso. “We had eight or nine meetings over your daily shot, ‘Express,’” he said. “And we got there in the end.”

The next step in The Economist’s Espresso development was building awareness, and they started marketing to their “owned” audiences, via internal media, with overlays on the website, product page, explainers. They hired a PR company to help them identify influencers. They recreated the famous 1996 Economist advert with Henry Kissinger, with Google’s Eric Schmidt.

“We wanted new subscribers,” said Iain Noakes. “After the free 30-day trial, this was important, because we wanted to measure what people were doing when and what we could do next.”

However, tracking the performance of the launch was likened to herding cats.

“App stores weren’t built for subscription models,” Beard said. “They’re built for paid or free apps. For subscription models, it’s different. It caused hell to try to track.”

But, eventually, tracking Espresso allowed Noakes and Beard to make every penny they put in count and drove paid media installs. “We’re mastering conversion to trial,” Beard said. “Thus, we also know what levers to pull to drive positive return. You can see, that retargeting was working, but social was huge.”

Measuring Espresso’s performance allowed The Economist to deepen the user experience.

“We published on Saturday,” Beard said. “We discovered that by surveying customers. We now publish six days a week and on most UK bank holidays.”

They suggested for those looking to follow in their footsteps: to define success early in the beginning of the process, to measure what matters and what is actionable, and to be brave when looking at what you might do differently.

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