A shot of The Economist’s morning app – ‘Espresso’

“According to a Bank of America study, 35 percent of millennials reach for their smartphone before they do anything else when they wake up in the morning. Before they brush their teeth or hug a loved one,” said Jamie Credland, Global Head of Client Marketing at The Economist. That is one of the many reasons The Economist launched its daily morning briefing app, Espresso, nearly a year ago.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | October 6, 2015

“The idea is that you finish it in 5 minutes each day, that’s it. Like a shot of espresso,” said Credland, who was speaking at the Mobile News Summit during World Publishing Expo 2015 in Hamburg.

What’s in the app?

  • Five recommended original Economist stories each day, each only 120 words.
  • A World in Briefing summary and markets and currencies updates.
  • It is published each weekday morning at 6 a.m. in three editions for the Americas, Europe and Asia.
  • It is available on iPhone and Android.
  • Free to existing subscribers.
  • Others pay 2.49 pounds.
  • One story each day is a free sample.
  • The app includes one advertising or sponsor slot.

Disclaimer: I downloaded the app (paid for it) shortly before contacting Jamie for this interview.


So no chance for me to get Espresso in my inbox? Would also pay for it in my inbox. In other words, I like it. I understand, however, that you are trying to draw subscribers…

Espresso is also available direct to your inbox in an email form from the Newsletters page on This is only available to existing Economist subscribers though (because you get access to the full content of Espresso within that newsletter). If you are new to The Economist, you can access 1 free story every day through the espresso app, but need to subscribe to access the full content.

How many one-off downloads, like me, do you get?

The app reaches both existing and new readers of The Economist. By far the majority of readers are existing subscribers, who are using Espresso to add daily, short content updates to their existing Economist subscription. While the numbers fluctuate a little, around 87% of readers of the app are existing subscribers. That means around 13% are not subscribers, and so represent new readers being brought in to The Economist’s ecosystem. We’re pretty happy with those numbers, because it means we are creating something that is of real value to our existing readers, while at the same time extending our reach. Striking that balance was something that was the intention behind Espresso from the start.

Where is the download figure now?

In terms of downloads, we’re now at over 900,000 worldwide, which is a great result. The more exciting number however is probably the 200,000 weekly users figure, which represents the number of people who are actually regularly opening the app and reading it. That’s a significant number for a product that has been in market for less than a year, and puts it in the same league as some smaller national newspapers in terms of scale.


How does the sponsorship model work for companies?

Sponsorship is available on a global or regional basis, and consists of both display advertising formats within the app (served as full screen ads in between articles, similar to the delivery of ads within our digital editions), and also includes logo placement on the loading screen of the app.

By keeping the advertising formats similar to that of our other digital editions products, we were aiming to make it easier for advertisers to plan multi-platform campaigns across The Economist’s full suite of products, and enable people to easily add the new Espresso app to their existing media plans. This approach has been working, we have already had top tier clients from the luxury, finance and tech worlds sponsoring the app, and repeat bookings to the product. Which is perhaps not surprising, given the speed the app has grown and the fact campaigns are often achieving tap rates above 3%. In a world of ad blocking and viewability concerns, strong placements in controlled environments like the app are always going to be popular.

So what was the impetus for developing the app?

There were two key factors driving the development of the app. Firstly, in a world where consumers have an ever closer relationship with their mobile phones and are changing their expectations of news delivery, it made sense to investigate what a daily version of The Economist, delivered purely on a mobile platform, might look like. Secondly, the development of Espresso was part of a larger shift at The Economist where we are developing the internal skills and processes to launch new products more quickly, while still staying true to the brand promise of The Economist itself. This is not always easy to do at an organisation that has been publishing for 172 years, but Espresso has now been followed by the Global Business Review app and the launch of Economist Films, which demonstrates how far we have moved in this space.

What sort of feedback have you received about the finite feel of the content vs. linking out? Was that decision more to stand out or more DNA of The Economist?

The decision not to ‘link out’ from the app definitely stems from the DNA of The Economist. Readers come to us because we are a trusted filter on world affairs, and they value what we call the ‘finishability’ of the product. This means that a large part of the value we are offering readers is that our editorial team have done the background reading for you. The premise is that by the time it appears in The Economist, all the various facts and angles have been taken into account, and a considered viewpoint on the subject is given. This is exactly what we are looking to recreate in Espresso, simply on a daily instead of weekly basis. If it was filled with links to other articles, readers may feel that they have not yet got the full picture until they have clicked off to the other sources to find out more.

This has been The Economist’s approach for some time (there are not all that many external links on either), so we have not had negative feedback from readers. On the contrary, the finishability of the app, the fact that it keeps track of how many articles you have read so far, and rewards you when you are finished with a little quote to start your day, has been met with approval from readers in surveys and other research we have carried out.

What was the marketing/promotion plan behind the app?

We used a variety of tools and platforms to market the app at launch, both to our existing subscribers and to new readers using targeted display and search. The broader potential audience were targeted as part of the same campaign that recently won a Bronze Lion at Cannes for the best use of data. Working with our agency partner UM we developed a psychographic profile of potential new Economist readers and combined that with contextual targeting to very efficiently reach our new target.

Who comes to the table, so to speak, at The Economist when discussing the development of such an app? How broad is that strategic discussion, and how long did it take from concept to launch?

The Economist is a very collaborative organisation, and surprisingly flat in structure, so any new product development obviously includes a range of stakeholders across the business. In the specific instance of Espresso, this was very much originally an editorial thought, based on work that was being done on the value that the weekly publication delivers to readers. That led naturally to the question ‘what would this look like if it was daily, not weekly’, and the editorial team started thinking about how that might work, what a shorter format version of an Economist article might look like, and how we could ensure we were still delivering the quality of product that people expect from The Economist with much tighter time scales. In the end the solution was that, in order for Espresso to be a truly Economist product, it would have to be written by the same editorial team. This meant that a lot of the work in preparation for launch involved the editorial team working out how to publish on a daily basis (actually three times daily, in London, Singapore and New York), and how to structure the work flow to make that feasible. In fact, the editors were writing Espresso content and running the process for 3 months before the first line of code was even written, to test whether it was possible editorially. Once that was clear, the development of the app itself was incredibly fast.

What other morning briefings do you receive?

Aside from Espresso, I also read the Quartz daily briefing, which is great, and MediaREDEF which is absolutely phenomenal and I would recommend for anyone with an interest in the media world more generally. This week someone recommended the Fortune CEO Daily to me too, which gives a much more personality-led insight into the business world, so I’m experimenting with that right now.

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