The Economist has launched a new weekly podcast with an accompanying newsletter to help boost subscriptions in the run-up to this year’s US presidential election.
The ‘Checks and Balance’ content aims to apply the publication’s political analysis to "make sense of the mayhem" of the election happening in November 2020.
Audiences appear to be hungry for the clarity; the podcast's trailer has been downloaded more than 100,000 times before its first episode launched on 24 January 2020.
"This 2020 initiative is about providing value to our existing readers who really want to put an important election at a key moment in history in a global context," said Mina Seetharaman, EVP, Chief Strategy and Creative Officer at The Economist.
"But also to make sure that we are putting out content that can help bring more people in and help them to see the kinds of perspectives that we bring that can be relevant to them."
It follows recent podcasts the news organisation has launched to expand listenership - some of which have sought to find new audiences in North America specifically, which accounts for 55 per cent of The Economist's 1.6 million print and digital circulation.
The Economist currently produces roughly ten hours of audio content every week, including more than three hours of podcast content on Economist Radio. It aims to capitalise on a burgeoning podcast market expected to reach $1 billion by next year in the US alone.
Focusing content around the US election period has precedent for ramping up subscriptions too. During the period from the 2016 election until the end of President Trump’s first 100 days in office (November 2016 through April 2017), The Economist experienced 19 per cent growth in digital subscriptions in North America and globally.
.@TheEconomist has covered every US presidential election since at least 1844, but the 2020 race will be our first with a dedicated podcast (that launched today!)— Aryn Braun (@arynbraun) January 24, 2020
In the words of @JohnPrideaux:
"We won’t waste your time with pointless horse-race stuff"
Although there are many different politics podcasts covering the upcoming election, Checks and Balance aims to bring a more independent and fair-minded approach and take regional reporting on the ground and put it in a global context for listeners.
The Checks and Balance newsletter follows on from previous success with this format, being one of the most effective channels for the publication in converting their audience into paying subscribers.
"We know that newsletters drive a higher conversion rate for subscriptions than just your average content on the site. So for us, it definitely makes sense to be producing a newsletter on such an important topic, at a particularly high engagement moment."
However, when it comes to converting podcast listeners into subscribers, Seetharaman acknowledges this is harder to measure.
The priority, instead, is to push different subscriptions options through content that audiences are engaging with - whether that is through a podcast for their morning commute, or an email in their inbox. But as audiences' wants and needs change, the news organisation must adapt accordingly.
"It is really all about understanding how your audience wants to engage with you and how they want to be consuming content that, at the heart of it, should be driving any publisher’s content strategy, digital strategy and consumption strategy.
"It’s about staying on top of how your consumers are setting the trend so that you can be of service to them."
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