Joanna Alexandre, The Economist’s syndication and licensing director, talks about content distribution strategy

Here Joanna Alexandre, syndication and licensing director at The Economist, explains how syndication processes are evolving, The Economist’s expansion into new territories and the opportunities that the pay per view model, as pioneered by Blendle, offers publishers.

Joanna Alexandre ()

How has your content syndication model changed in the last few years? Are newspaper and magazines still buying large chunks of content, or do they tend to opt for more bespoke offerings?

Newspapers, magazines and websites are still buying content – and I believe that there will always be a market for quality news analysis. However, clients now are more mindful of how much content they can print or republish, and I would say most operations are only buying what they will definitely use.

How many countries is The Economist available in a local language now? What criteria do you use when deciding when to launch in new territory? What factors drove the launch of the Chinese app?

We don’t license The Economist, so we have five regional editions but all in English, and all overseen by our editorial team in London.

In China we have launched the Global Business Review – a local language app which is a monthly digest of the best of the business stories from The Economist. We really wanted something that spoke to the potential readers in China who aren’t as familiar with The Economist brand as their UK or US counterparts, and those who do not have the fluency in English to read The Economist in its original edition.

Which of the new social platforms (eg Google AMP, Facebook Instant Articles) is The Economist working with? Can publishers ignore social platforms in the future?]

All of them! Social media platforms will never replace the environment, or satisfy the needs of our core readers who are looking for longer form content, but it can be useful in terms of discoverability for those readers who do not yet know that they would enjoy The Economist.

What criteria does The Economist use when deciding to launch on a new platform?

We look at whether the platform is a good fit with our brand, and likely to attract future readers of The Economist, as well as how the payment model works and the quantity of content needed. In my opinion it’s much better for publishers to be on a transparent or pay-as-you-read model, like Blendle. In some models you risk becoming lost in a sort of ‘content soup’; readers won’t be able to taste that you are The Economist, nor will the content platform be able to make it financially viable to be there…

Why did you choose to join the US trial of Blendle? Do you think that there is a future in the UK for this type of pay per view content?

I think that there is a pool of people who are not currently subscribers to The Economist but who would enjoy reading our articles. So again, Blendle helps with that discoverability – people can read our content and start to see whether they think that a full subscription is for them. We have a paywall on so all of our readers pay for content. If you’re going to read  more than two or three articles a week it would be better value to sign up for one of our introductory subscription offers. So via Blendle we are servicing readers who either only want a small section of content or who aren’t yet The Economist converts.

How do you work with content aggregators?

Again, I don’t think that such content aggregators are a threat to our core business because our existing readers will come to The Economist environment, either in print, website, app or Espresso. The key of our excellent editorial team is that alongside the core news stories they are telling you about stories which are impactful and relevant but not necessarily subjects that you realise that you need to know about before you read the articles. That’s the key to really excellent editing; we will find you a story that you didn’t realise you needed to read before you read it.  We aim to be a trusted filter on world affairs and I truly believe that we do that well.

What do you think will be the key challenges facing The Economist’s syndication and licensing programme in the future?

In the past syndication and licensing teams could sit in isolation and to be honest, we always suspected that the rest of the business did not really know what we did…but now the lines between different content distribution platforms, syndication and marketing have become more blurred.  I would say that this is a really exciting time to be working in content distribution; we’ve gone from being a niche team that nobody understood to being at the forefront of the content distribution strategy…it’s an exciting place to be!

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