Inside The Economist’s newsletter strategy
The primary goal of our newsletters isn’t to increase reach says Sunnie Huang, newsletters editor at The Economist.
The primary goal of our newsletters isn’t to increase reach; that’s the job of our social media platforms. For newsletters, the primary goal is to deepen our relationship with current readers and help them get more value out of our journalism.”
— Sunnie Huang, newsletters editor, The Economist.
This may come as a surprise to other publishers as newsletters can be a part of a wider remit of tools to reach new audiences.
However, for Huang and her team the last 8 months has been focused on transforming the way The Economist approaches newsletters all together.
Speaking to Reuters News Agency Huang said, “We put our design thinking hat on. Instead of developing newsletters in a vacuum and forcing them on readers, we wanted to find out what our readers’ needs and pain points are, and then, how we can best design newsletters to address those needs.”
It sounds like semantics, but this readers-first thinking has introduced a lot of clarity and focus in our decisions when it comes to features like design, labelling and curation.”
“Our newsletters are for registered users and subscribers, meaning our newsletter readers are already familiar with our content to some degree. As our social media platforms continue to broaden the top of the customer funnel, newsletters are there to bring readers closer to our journalism and encourage them to regularly consume our journalism.”
She added: “Therefore increasing the gravity of the funnel and helping us acquire subscribers and build subscriber loyalty”.
“It sounds like semantics, but this readers-first thinking has introduced a lot of clarity and focus in our decisions when it comes to features like design, labelling and curation.”
In the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2018, researchers found that among news apps and mobile notifications, email newsletters have grown in importance for most publishers. However, with the growing use of newsletters, publishers risk bombarding their readers and must refine their strategies with this in mind.
Why is The Economist experimenting with newsletters now?
Counteract the decline in traffic from social media
“We wanted to invest in a platform that we can control. With emails, we can control the design, the presentation, the timing and the audience. So newsletters help us build a direct relationship with readers without being over-reliant on third-party, algorithm-based platforms”
Renew focus on our own digital products
“We pride ourselves in our world-class journalism; we should complement that experience with world-class digital products.”
Do more with budget-friendly channels
“Compared to other digital products, newsletters are versatile and relatively low-cost and low-risk. Different newsletters can be shaped to target different audience segments and meet different business goals. There’s a lot of room to experiment”.
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This interview was conducted at NewsImpact Paris. NewsImpact is an initiative offering free-of-charge media innovation events and trainings, organized by the European Journalism Centre and powered by the Google News Initiative.