The Economist is attracting younger readers with cut-price Espresso digital edition

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With just over one million subscribers in print and online The Economist remains a powerhouse for quality paid-for journalism globally.

Based in the UK, but with an international audience, the title provided a spark of light in some otherwise gloomy magazine ABC figures for the second half of 2023 with its daily mobile phone edition Espresso.

Espresso, which launched in 2014 but has only published audited circulation numbers since 2022, grew 74% year on year to an average of 21,775 subscribers per day.

For £7.90 per month Espresso offers readers five articles per day, four longer reads per week and a daily podcast (compared with £19.90 for the digital edition and £26.50 for digital plus print).

Press Gazette’s Future of Media Explained podcast asked Economist executive vice president for marketing Nada Arnot how the publisher managed to give Espresso such a circulation boost and whether the overall circulation of The Economist can return to growth. Economist digital subscriptions fell 2% year on year to 966,947 in the second half of 2023. Print subscribers (most of whom also take digital subscription) fell 12% to 485,787.

What is the elevator pitch for Espresso?

“It is sort of the bite -sized version of The Economist. It gives you the World in Brief, which is a flagship franchise within our core app as well, which gives you the most important headlines of the day with a little bit more context behind them. We update it three times a day on Espresso, and so you get a nice feed of what’s really important in the world that day.

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“It’s a snack-size version if you will, but it’s not in any way a diluted version. It’s not a substitute to the core product.

“It targets a more female audience, a younger audience and a student audience .so it is fitting nicely into the audience spectrum and fulfils a different need to our core product.”

What has driven the recent subscriber growth?

“We did a big marketing push in May and June last year after we did a few enhancements to the app.

“It’s a mobile-only product. So we went where you market mobile apps. So we used a lot of UAC, so universal app campaign, campaigns. We do Apple ads. We also partnered with T -Mobile for a little bit and ran a campaign through there as well as on search and social.

“We also went towards where more mobile-first audiences are. And that tends to be podcast listeners, which actually dovetails nicely into our podcast product.

“We also integrated Espresso into our back-to-school campaign for the first time. We believe students will really enjoy this product. And I think we saw a nice adoption in the fall from including Espresso into that campaign.”

How is the switch to subscriptions for podcasts going?

“That’s been wildly successful for us. We were able to bring all of our podcasts, with the exception of The Intelligence, behind the paywall, including all of our special shows, such as Boss Class, so that it’s now a subscription product.

“The podcasts are priced at a lower price point than Espresso [just over £4 per month). And again, it’s going after the younger, primarily female demographic, who, again, are price sensitive, but they’re also time-poor. So they’re on the go. They’re trying to get all their news in while they’re multitasking or hypertasking with life.”

Have headline digital subscriptions now peaked or is there still room for growth?

“I think it’s a reflection of where we’re at in the economic cycle. We’re pretty bullish with where we’re going in this next year. We think with the election, ear that we’re now in, plus a big brand campaign, I think this is going to be a really strong growth year for us.”

“I’m not going to lie. It’s absolutely challenging. More and more, not just the younger generations, but even millennials and Gen Xers as well, they’re finding news sources through the side door.

“So they’re finding news through social and through search and not coming in through the front door of a news brand.

“And also because the days of print are slowly moving away from us, that brand recognition of seeing someone carry a print magazine, that brand impression goes away as well.

“That said, having products like the monthly free trial podcast and Espresso are really easy ways to get in front of audiences that might be more price sensitive.

“They help is to capture the younger audiences, to build the relationship with them, to help habituate them to our journalism, give them a sense of what the flavor of our journalism is so that we become a go-to source for them, hopefully, when they become mature working professionals.”

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