Emily Tan
Apr 8, 2015

The Economist on its new Chinese-supported app, Global Business Review

HONG KONG – The Economist Group has launched a new app streamlined to provide content around global trends in business finance and technology. It is also the title’s first bilingual product, working in both Simplified and Traditional Chinese.

A visual from The Economist's digital campaign
A visual from The Economist's digital campaign

The app, entitled The Economist Global Business Review, will co-exist with the company's other apps, which includes the recently launched Espresso. Subscribers will receive 10 articles at the start of the month, and thereafter, a daily article is published each weekday for a total of 30 articles each month. These articles will be a selection of business, finance and technology stories from the weekly newspaper and will have been translated “to the highest degree” to maintain The Economists’ stylistic nuances. The app is available for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

At present, The Economist estimates that it has around 40,000 subscribers in Chinese-speaking markets within Asia (this includes China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia), representing 40 per cent of its total subscriber base in the region. Potentially however, the app serves a wordwide addressable audience of about 5 million.

According to Tom Standage, deputy editor of The Economist, the title has held off launching an official Chinese-language translation of its content until now for several reasons. “The cost in print would have been prohibitive, but the rise in adoption of smartphones in developing countries has made launching an app a viable option. We can reach people far more easily,” he said.

Apps, continued Standage, are a natural medium for The Economist. “What we do, what we’ve always done, is provide an antidote for information overload. The Economist is a trusted filter. Our readers trust us to decide what’s important and there’s a sense of finality with print. You don’t have that with the internet, you never feel you’ve finished it. The app we’ve built however is designed to give you the feeling of ‘finishability’ our weekly provides. It encapsulates the product into a finite amount of information.”

Monetisation

The Economist Global Business Review is made available free of charge for the month of May, courtesy of launch sponsor Hyundai, after which it will be available to Economist subscribers and as a separate subscription product at around US$8 a month.

“The app is free, as is some content, but users will have to pay to unlock the rest,” explained Standage.

Besides a subscription-based model, the app will also have opportunities for banner advertising but less in the way of native advertising. “We do a version of content marketing but we will not publish native ad content out of the same content management system as our editorial. You won’t find yourself scrolling through a bunch of economist stories and find some of the links are ads. We want a clear distinction,” he clarified.

Reaching new readers

"Offering our unique content in local language opens up an entirely new market to us that was not possible to tap into before," commented Tim Pnnegar, publisher and managing director of The Economist Group Asia-Pacific in a statement. "Our growth strategy over the next five years is exactly focused on attracting new audiences and capitalising on innovations in product and service offerings.” 

As such, the title will be launching a campaign to support the launch of the new app, inviting new readers to sample its content.

“Of course, we will be using our own properties to promote the app, but we will also be building a presence within certain local markets,” said Grace Hahn, head of marketing for The Economist Asia-Pacific. “Social will be a pretty integrated part of our marketing strategy. We’re also launching some paid digital promotions focusing on local search engines [and] exploring on-the-ground activation campaigns.”

In China, The Economist has plans to work with Weibo and WeChat and has a launch event set for April 28.

When asked about agency-partners, Hahn would only say that the brand is working with a stable of agencies.

App development

The Economist has been working on the app for about a year, running in parallel with the development of Espresso. While the UK office lead the development, the team naturally drew on its Chinese-speaking staff situated worldwide.  

The length of time it has taken to build the app is due to its multi-language support. “It has been built from day one to support more than one language pack and we’re in a position to add more,” said Standage. The decision on which languages the title will launch in next, he continued, will of course depend on the size of the market, opportunities and partners. “The next obvious ones would be Japanese and Portugese.”

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