Cambiare per rimanere sé stessi. La strategia digitale dell’Economist raccontata dal suo vicedirettore che al modello basato sulla pubblicità dice: “Non credo”


Qual è il futuro dell’Economist? NiemanLab ha intervistato il vicedirettore della testata e direttore dell’edizione online Tom Standage sulla strategia digitale e su quali rimangono i ‘fondamentali’ del giornale: redazioni integrate per cominciare.

Tom Standage
Tom Standage (foto Olycom)

Cos’è l’Economist? È la prima domanda che si fa Standage, è un “distillato di news”, su quello che “conta davvero nel mondo e quello che sta succedendo”. È un modello che funziona per la carta ma che si applica anche all’edizione digitale che è tutta a pagamento.

So at its heart is that we have this very high density of information, and the promise we make to the reader is that if you trust us to filter and distill the news, and if you give us an hour and a half of your time — which is roughly how long people spend reading The Economist each week — then we’ll tell you what matters in the world and what’s going on. And if you only read one thing, we want to be the desert-island magazine. And our readers, that’s what they say. This is a model that works in print and you can apply it to digital. And it is working — this is a product that does just as well in a digital world.

All’offerta si è recentemente aggiunto un digest, Espresso, una selezione di news da ricevere in forma di newsletter o attraverso un’app, che è stata scaricata circa 600 mila volte. La chiave per Standage è che però non ci devono essere link, l’informazione ancora una volta è già stata distillata ed è concentrata, il lettore arriva alla fine senza doversi preoccupare di cliccare sui link delle notizie che trova interessanti perché “abbiamo già cliccato noi sui link e deciso cosa fosse interessante, e quello l’abbiamo inserito in Espresso”.

And there are a lot of these news daily briefings around, but what we wanted to be was forward-looking — to give you the feeling of being ahead of the news, “this is what’s coming up today, and look out for this.” Another aspect of it is — and I get all the morning briefings,Sentences, the FT one, and Quartz’s, and the rest of them — is that we don’t do links. The reason that we don’t do links, again, if you want to get links you can get them from other people. You can go on Twitter and get as many as you like. But the idea was everything that you need to know is distilled into this thing that you can get to the end of, and you can get to the end of it without worrying that you should’ve clicked on those links in case there was something interesting. So we’ve clicked on the links already and we’ve decided what’s interesting, and we’ve put it in Espresso.

Bollono in pentola altre novità come edizioni straniere, che oggi con l’online hanno minori costi di produzione.

So we have various things that are on the boil. As has been reported, we’re looking at foreign-language editions. It’s not quite editions, because we’re taking a slightly different approach to it. We haven’t said exactly what we’re doing there, but that’s very much something that digital distribution allows us to do. To do The Economist in Japanese every week would be very difficult to translate quickly, and then to print and distribute it would be very expensive. But suddenly to do a foreign language edition through an app is much more feasible. So that’s something we’re looking at.

Non c’è fiducia nei ritorni dalla pubblicità, così come sui nuovi modelli di giornalismo emergenti dal web. “Costruiamo  un sito, mettiamoci la pubblicità e in questo modo paghiamo i giornalisti, non credo funzioni” dice Standage ” e i giornali che stanno inseguendo quel modello non credo avranno successo”.

Ultimately, I think what’s interesting about the current environment is that there is an awful amount of froth around. There are an awful lot of news organizations that are being funded with VC money, and the VCs have persuaded themselves that because the news organizations use software, they’re a bit like tech companies and can be valued like tech companies. I don’t think it’s true, and I think an awful lot of these companies seem to have business models that are dependent on advertising, and I don’t think it’s going to work. So I think there’s going to be a shakeout. But I think the old “Let’s build a website, we’ll put a lot of ads on it, and that will pay for the journalism” — I’m not sure that’s going to work. And I think the newspapers that are trying to switch to that model aren’t going to make it work either.

Non risparmia critiche al Guardian che si può permettersi 30 milioni di sterline di buco lo scorso anno grazie all’amministrazione di un trust. La testata economica inglese invece sempre di più  investirà in eventi, conferenze, studi da non confondere però con forme di native advertisement: “Consente ai pubblicitari di intervenire su determinati temi o migliorare il loro profilo. Ma non si tratta di native advertisment, non sono contenuti editoriali, è una linea che non attraverseremo”.

So we’re switching toward what we call thought leadership, which is we sell sponsorship of conferences, with white papers, with online advertising as well. But essentially it’s not straightforward display advertising. It allows advertisers to associate themselves with particular topic areas, or raise their profiles in particular areas. And it’s not native advertising either, because the crucial thing for me is that we’re not serving this out of our editorial CMS. For me, that’s the line that we won’t cross. When the ads are coming out of the same CMS as the editorial, which is one definition of native advertising — we won’t do that.

The Economist’s Tom Standage on digital strategy and the limits of a model based on advertising (NiemanLab, 1 aprile 2015)