The Economist has launched a new video strategy in a bid to reach new audiences on social media, designed to promote its voice and global perspective outside of its paid-for subscription model.

Since 31 October, the organisation has been publishing five short videos a week in its Daily Watch feature, a spin-off initiative from the Economist Films unit that produces 15-minute documentaries.

"We've been doing multimedia for eight years, but we wanted to hit the reset button and go big into video," explained Marguerite Howell, editor of Daily Watch, The Economist, at the BBC's 'Social Broadcasting: What's Next?' conference in London on 9 December.

"The way we engage with video has really changed. At first we thought of it as something that was very experimental, but it has transformed to the point of becoming something that's very core to The Economist's strategy, and that's been a big shift."

By publishing videos specifically tailored to social, the news organisation hopes that it will engage with audiences who might not have heard of The Economist, along with others who are misinformed about who they are.

"We think of video internally as ambassadorial content, because we want to give out freely and widely to as many people as possible to increase brand awareness," she said.

"We want people to realise that, actually, The Economist isn't necessarily what you think – a lot of people have the mistaken view that it is just about the economy."

We think of video internally as ambassadorial content, because we want to give out freely and widely to as many people as possible to increase brand awarenessMarguerite Howell, The Economist

Although the team is using a range of formats, from animated comedy pieces to talking-head explainers, Howell explained Daily Watch aims to reflect The Economist's values, but in a smaller, more shareable format than they have been used to.

"We are about quality over quantity, that's why we only do one per day, Monday to Friday," she said.

"We don't just make anything because we can. We stop and we think, 'how does this work for us'.

"We are a distinct publication with our own unique voice, so we want to make sure that we're showcasing that through our video."

But it's all about experimentation, Howell explained, noting that even though The Economist has been around for a long time, her team is more like a new start-up.

"If we want to pilot a new format, we just go ahead and make it happen. If it doesn't work, we bin it – we are very nimble, and that gives us a lot of room for creativity," she said.

"For example, one of the things we are known for as well is the strength of our data, statistics and charts, so Daily Watch is experimenting with blending graphics with real-world footage to showcase data stories."

Howell's team followed some of the learnings from Economist Films and switched from a video journalism model to a film model, where instead of one person doing all stages of the production process, the publisher has a segmented department focused on video production, which hires in professionals from outside to help them improve and develop.

"We want to raise the game because a key thing for us is to have really high production value, and although we are making short videos to put out on social media platforms, these aren't things we've just thrown together – they are well crafted with a lot of consideration," she said.

"In the early days we just published to The Economist website and to YouTube, but since then we have tried to use video to get our stuff out as widely as possible, so on every social platform we can, along with Kindle Fire, Apple TV, and our own app.

"We are never going to get to the point where we say 'OK, this is how we do video and we are going to do this now into the future'. That is one of the things that makes it such an exciting time to be doing this in the industry."

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