Noakes, who joined The Economist in 2014, will be speaking on The Economist’s reader first product strategy at WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media India 2020 conference in February.
According to Media Post, The Economist has a combined print/digital circulation of about 1.6 million, with about a 52/48 percent split, respectively.
In this interview, Noakes discusses the recent evolution of the 175-year-old brand, their unique selling proposition and what they do to keep their customers satisfied.
WAN-IFRA: What makes your digital journey, as a weekly news publication, different from other newspapers?
Iain Noakes: Rupert Pennant-Rea, a former Editor and Chairman once stated that “The Economist is not a newspaper, but a ‘views paper.'” Weekly is more considered. Not reactive, breaking news, but in-depth reporting.
“It gives us a USP, we are not breaking news or sending push notifications on the latest royal family drama – there are enough outlets doing that already. We can deliver readers the increasingly rare offering of thoughtful analysis and quality journalism on global topics, that they can consume via a platform that suits them.”
We’ve evolved considerably in recent years and audiences can tailor for themselves how they access The Economist.
We deliver our high-quality, independent journalism via a number of channels / platforms, for example, every Tuesday and Thursday, Economist Films posts videos that give authoritative insight and opinion on international news, politics, business, finance, science, technology and the connections between them.
Meanwhile our podcasts such as The Intelligence, delivers listeners the top stories every weekday morning.
Our app, Espresso gives readers that day’s agenda in bitesize amounts every day. These and many more are in addition to our newly refreshed website and apps which are updated daily and also feature the weekly newspaper online, as well as our daily and weekly newsletters.
How would you summarise The Economist’s digital product experience strategy?
Give people what they want: build quality digital products, based on customer insight, that create regular habits. Continue to drive content curation with the sharp minds of our editorial team, now augmented with data and insight i.e. data informed, but not data led. Focus on our commitment to the highest levels of quality standards on all fronts.
What are the challenges in transforming a print brand into a digital one?
Evolving the newsroom to adapt publishing cycles to the pace of the digital age. We are now releasing content daily in the “Economist Today” pages of our new app, which is really a step change in our editorial cycle.
One challenge lies in finding the right balance in the channels you use, they need to be the right ones, rather than trying to do everything on every platform available.
“It’s a balance between what your existing audiences want, and the prospect of reaching new audiences; but in all cases ensure we have a good product: market fit so that compliment and enhance their lives.”
Another might be transforming content that has traditionally just been written for print, into a form that best suits each platform – perhaps what is written in the magazine requires imagery, or infographics, a film, or 15 second clip in other formats. Or that some of our audiences prefer reading, whilst others listening on their commute. One size does not fit all.
What is crucial in maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty?
Maintain their expectations: trust, offering, service; which means you have to do what the customer needs, not what you may want, such as avoiding the temptation to add a ‘sell’ into the process.
“You must ensure that you keep the practicalities of it smooth, trouble-free with no onus on the customer to call, email, chase, figure anything out; and as and when they do need help have remedies to all and any eventualities that a customer might have to hand, so no scenario is difficult or long-winded to resolve.”
It is crucial that you make no assumptions of knowledge in your customers e.g. prepare for those customers who are not digitally savvy, as the onus is on the publisher to lead the customer, not the customer to take the journey alone.
And finally, ensure you maintain the brand personality and values throughout the process. Have fun with it if that’s your brand.
See our recent story about How The Economist’s ‘reader-first’ circulation model is driving growth by clicking here.