Making our data journalism stand out on social media
The stories produced by The Economist’s data team attract a lot of readers. Some of the team’s most popular pieces include our own glass ceiling index and a daily chart about the most dangerous cities in the world. It didn’t come as a surprise that, when we asked our readers what content they wanted to see more of, they said data journalism. So we decided to take two main steps to meet this demand. Continue reading “Spotlight on data journalism”→
How we’ve changed our approach over the past two years
Anyone who reads Severe Contest will notice that our social-media team has evolved over the past two years.
Our overarching goal of increasing awareness and ultimately paid readership among globally curious people has not fundamentally changed. But how we achieve this mission has — and continues to do so.
The main reason is because the platforms where we distribute our content are also rapidly changing. Whether it’s a tweak to their complex algorithms or slower user growth, we have to respond accordingly.
Does this mean that we dive enthusiastically into every new product launch or platform? Quite the opposite; we strive to be disciplined about saying “yes” only to the ideas we believe will help us achieve our goals and asking “why?” to help us stay focused on the right things. That means being open to experimentation, but setting a hard deadline and killing a project if it fails to meet expectations.
There’s another reason we constantly fine-tune our approach: tactics that worked yesterday may no longer be as effective today. For example, we have realised that focusing solely on social media distribution — and expanding our reach — is not the most optimal use of our time.
We need to strike a healthy balance between striving to reach more readers across platforms over which we have zero control, with bringing them back onto the platforms over which we do have control, such as our apps and website.
To that end, here’s how we’ve changed our approach over the past year:
So we focused instead on producing high-quality social-media content, such as “vimages”, shareable video and other new formats, as well as resurfacing evergreens and coordinating across departments to give important events a big push.
We’ve achieved huge success so far, with social media helping to drive record engagements and traffic to economist.com this year.
Yet an over-reliance on social media can leave us particularly vulnerable to sudden changes by platforms. Ultimately, we want people who find us on social media to come back to our website and apps, and to spend more time there.
That’s why we’ve diversified our sources of traffic by focusing more on app push notifications and newsletters. Since January, our team has been experimenting with different types of push notifications to figure out what works. We’re also beta-testing and preparing to launch a new newsletter later this year. (Details to come!)
We’re interacting more with readers
For some time, our team focused mostly on reaching new audiences across social media platforms by publishing as much content as possible. Over the past year, we’ve invested more time and resources into engaging with readers on economist.com and elsewhere, because these are the types of activities we believe will help build loyalty and hopefully encourage readers to subscribe.
Similarly, Quora has proven to be an effective way of connecting our biggest fans with The Economist’s correspondents and editors — and at a much deeper level than on other social media platforms. The breadth and specificity of questions suggest that readers want to better understand how we do journalism. Our Quora Q&A with Idrees Kahloon, a data journalist, generated more than 4m views.
Building on these initiatives, we’ve also just launched a Facebook group for readers who want to debate American politics in a civil environment. My colleague Adam Smith outlines how it works here.
We’re aligning our efforts with the marketing teams to get more readers to subscribe
No longer do editorial and commercial folks avoid talking to each other. We now work with the marketing teams daily to identify the types of content and formats that resonate with our most engaged social-media fans, and to target them with subscription messages.
We supplement these efforts with campaigns around a particular topic (e.g. Oceans, Future of Work and Pride & Prejudice) to raise awareness of the stories readers may not know we covered.
We’re thinking more holistically about metrics and shifting away from vanity ones
The Economist has more than 40m social media followers, but what does that actually mean in terms of their propensity to engage with and subscribe to our publication? Not much.
We’re more interested in driving high-quality engagements and traffic, and trying to hone in on the behaviours — bounce rate, articles read, retention and time spent — that lead people to ultimately become loyal fans and subscribers. For us, reach is a meaningless metric if it does not translate into anything concrete.
These are the questions we ask daily:
What is the most common journey from social media to becoming a subscriber? What are the characteristics of a reader who is likely to subscribe? What types of content do they engage with most?
What’s next? You tell us
For the rest of this year, we plan to double-down on some of these initiatives. As usual, we’re keen to hear our readers’ thoughts: where do you think we should take our team? What are some ideas (beyond social media) we should explore? How might we create more meaningful relationships with readers? Let us know in the comments below.
We’re hiring our next cohort of social media fellows
Digital, data and social journalism fellowship The Economist
The Economist was founded as a print newspaper in 1843, but today our analysis reaches 40m people through social media. More people than ever discover us for the first time on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, perhaps through a video or an eye-opening infographic.
The social-media team comprises creative and enthusiastic journalists who join us on one-year fellowships to help shape The Economist’s digital future. We are now recruiting three new fellows, who will each bring a different set of skills to the team.
You may have experience in presenting data in ways that fly on Facebook, and want to work with our data team to make stellar social-friendly infographics. Or you might have worked as a beat reporter and hope to collaborate with our picture desk on Instagram. You might have have built a community around a podcast. Or you may be a developer who can come up with a more efficient way of resurfacing popular evergreen stories — while working with data analysts on the side. Or you might even be fast at crunching down a nuanced analysis for social videos, newsletters and push notifications. These illustrations are only some of the things we are looking for. We are open to your pitch.
All applicants must share an enthusiasm to work across The Economist. They will be supported by the central social-media team in London, but expected to find internal collaborators in different teams, from the editorial section desks to the product, data and analytics departments.
So does your experience and your skillset sit in the future of journalism — that is, involving digital, data or social media? Are you looking for a desk where you can learn, experiment and work with some of the world’s smartest journalists and editors? Are you eager to help shape and improve The Economist’s presence on social and digital platforms?
If you answer yes to these questions, we’d like to hear from you. Send the following items to email@example.com:
CV and cover letter outlining your pitch for where you’d fit in on the social-media team
400-word post for The Economist Explains blog on a topic of your choice
200-word pitch explaining (or illustrating) how you’d promote your explainer blog on a social or digital platform
Successful candidates will be hired on one-year contracts and paid £2,000 per month. The deadline for applications is Monday, June 19th. Applicants must be eligible to work in the UK. Start dates are flexible.
Preferred qualities include:
Proven experience in producing content for social media and digital platforms
An understanding of The Economist’s values, tone and audience
Enthusiasm for collaborating with colleagues in different departments
A good understanding of data analytics
Experience with Photoshop, Premiere or Illustrator
An awareness of what other publishers are doing on social media and an openness to trying new things
The Economist Group values diversity. We are committed to equal opportunities and creating an inclusive environment for all our employees. We welcome applicants regardless of ethnic origin, national origin, gender, race, colour, religious beliefs, disability, sexual orientation or age.