How The Economist reached 2.7 mln subscribers with its LinkedIn newsletter
Plus: a new list of journalists on TikTok
Hello! I'm Francesco Zaffarano, and this is Mapping Journalism on Social Platforms, a biweekly newsletter featuring chats with people pushing journalism's boundaries on social platforms.
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Two weeks ago, I asked you where local journalism is on TikTok. You sent me some interesting examples, and I added them to my list of journalism accounts on emerging social platforms. Thank you, as always, for your help!
Speaking of the list, there is an update that I worked on following some feedback I received from you – I am happy to announce that there is now a tab dedicated to TikTok accounts of individual journalists and news personalities. Do you have one, or do you follow one that is worth checking? Send it to me by replying to this email or completing this form.
And now, let’s dive into this week’s Q&A.
Q&A: How The Economist built one of its most successful newsletters on LinkedIn
For this issue, I spoke with Aaron Coultate, head of newsletters at The Economist. Aaron is responsible for a rich portfolio of newsletters, but there is one I was particularly interested in. One year ago, he worked on the launch of The Economist Week Ahead, the first LinkedIn newsletter published by the London-based paper. The experiment was a big hit and is now the third most-read title at The Economist, with 2.7 million subscribers.
FZ: How many newsletters are you managing right now?
AC: We have eleven subscriber-only newsletters and three free for all. Four, if you count our LinkedIn newsletter.
FZ: Why did you add a LinkedIn newsletter to your portfolio?
AC: When LinkedIn added the functionality to create a newsletter on the platform, it was a no-brainer for us to launch one, given that The Economist has 13 million followers on LinkedIn. It made sense to tap into that community.
We launched The Economist’s Week Ahead in July 2022, and there were a few key things that we wanted to try out with this newsletter.
One was the timing – we thought Monday around midday UK time would be a good spot since it catches the East Coast of America waking up.
Last year, we launched a Sunday edition of our daily newsletter, The Economist Today, with a note from Adam Roberts, the digital editor. And that was an experiment for us because the other editions of The Economist Today are more just like roundups of stories from the day. We wanted to see if there was an appetite for something a bit more expansive.
Adam’s note is a look ahead at the news and everything coming up in the editorial diary for him to watch in the week ahead. And the intro had a byline, something very different from every other article published in The Economist.
By acting as this trusted guide, we wanted Adam to explain a bit about our decision-making process, how we prepare and think about the big stories that are coming through, and offer expertise or guidance on the news. And as you read every week, you get to know him.
We started in January, and a month later, Russia invaded Ukraine. Suddenly there was a massive appetite for our coverage and commentary on the war in Ukraine, and quite quickly, Adam developed an excellent relationship with our readers.
He started soliciting feedback and messages from the readers and then addressing a few responses in his next edition, which would build a real sense of momentum and a nice feedback loop.
We were really happy with how this experiment was going, and we thought it would have been nice to get as many eyeballs as possible on Adam’s weekly note. And so when LinkedIn newsletters arrived, we decided to utilize that note from Sunday again on Monday morning.
So, Adam’s note from Sunday became the opening section of our LinkedIn newsletter. Of course, if big news happens overnight, we will update and ensure the issue is up to the minute.
FZ: What else can readers find in the LinkedIn newsletter?
AC: The second half of the newsletter showcases what is happening at The Economist that week. And this part has evolved over time – it’s been quite interesting to assess it each week and make iterative changes based on the data and responses from readers.
We have a couple of recurring segments. One is Bartleby, a witty column about workplace culture, introduced by a bespoke illustration. Quite understandably, this is popular with our LinkedIn readers.
Another is a series called The Economist Reads, which we launched last year. It’s an ongoing series in which we recommend good books to bring you up to speed on various topics, from wine to the origins of language. We found that this series was performing well on LinkedIn. Whenever we publish a new installment, we plug that into the LinkedIn newsletter with a nice illustration or picture.
And then there are a couple of other things, like a series of calls to action to register or subscribe at the bottom of the LinkedIn newsletter each week, promotion of other Economist newsletters and products, and a list of most-read articles from the previous week.
FZ: How are you measuring success?
AC: We monitor traffic, registrations, and subscriptions. We noticed that the percentage of registrations through the platform has increased since we launched our newsletter.
Other things are more difficult to track. For example, access to Adam is a great entry point for people who aren't super engaged with other digital products from The Economist. To measure the impact of that access, we look at readers’ feedback from the Sunday and Monday LinkedIn newsletters. We look at the quality and quantity of input and report that back to Adam and others within the digital newsroom to flag editions that sparked many responses and what people said.
FZ: How many people are reading the LinkedIn newsletter? What is your average open rate?
AC: LinkedIn tends to show views of the newsletter rather than an open rate, but this figure is consistent with the equivalent rates for our owned titles.
FZ: What percentage of responses do you have to the CTAs?
AC: Referrals have been encouraging so far, but they can fluctuate depending on the subject: LinkedIn traffic isn’t as consistent as that for our other newsletters.
FZ: How quickly did you grow subscribers to the LinkedIn newsletter?
AC: We had a very rapid period of growth at the beginning, thanks to our huge existing following on the platform. And since then, we’ve seen steady growth.
FZ: How many people are involved in the production of the LinkedIn newsletter?
AC: Emma Irving, a newsletter editor here in London, and I produce it. Adam writes the intro, and we get the copy ready for Sunday. Emma or I edit it on Monday, and it goes through fact-checkers and senior editors as anything we would publish. So quite a few people are involved, but the LinkedIn newsletter publishing tool is easy to use.
FZ: What is the most important thing you learned since the launch of the LinkedIn newsletter?
AC: It’s been good for me to get my hands dirty with LinkedIn as a platform. My colleagues in the social media team know it intimately, and I've been able to pick their brains and learn from them. That’s something I've personally enjoyed. I’ve enjoyed seeing and understanding our LinkedIn audience and how it differs from other audiences on other platforms. That helped me improve not only the LinkedIn newsletter but our proprietary newsletters, too. It gave me a chance to cross-pollinate ideas. But it was also an excellent opportunity to play around with design and layout.
The LinkedIn project is a collaboration. Many things we do are intimately tied to our newsletter and social media strategy. It sits at the center of things and is a great example of working across different departments.
FZ: Are you planning to do more with LinkedIn newsletters?
AC: We plan to continue to tweak and experiment with our existing title. I don’t know if we will launch more titles, though – for now, I think we will keep our options open.
FZ: Did LinkedIn support you in some way?
AC: Yes, we've worked closely with the people at LinkedIn, and they've been instrumental. Especially at the start, it was helpful to pepper them with questions before we got to grips with the publishing tool on the platform. And also to gain insights from them on our audience that we couldn't get otherwise. The Economist's followers are nearly three times more likely to share content than the average LinkedIn user. The more we can teach our followers about the world around them, the higher the chance that they'll pass this knowledge on to others.
FZ: Can you suggest me a LinkedIn newsletter I should check out?
AC: I follow a few, but I'm hoping that LinkedIn improves its search functionality soon so I can find more!
Before moving to our usual list of jobs, I wanted to flag to those of you who are moving their first steps in your career that the European Journalism Center has just launched the 2023 edition of the Google News Initiative Student Fellowship, the biggest entry-level journalism fellowship in Europe – 8 weeks of paid, full-time work in some high-profile newsroom across the continent. Check it out and apply before April 21st.
And now, some more job opportunities from Daniel Levitt’s.
Architectural Digest, Associate Director, Global Social Media in NYC
The Washington Post, Metro Audience Strategy Editor in DC
Court TV, Social Media Coordinator in Atlanta
Gannett, Audience Engagement Specialist in Nashville
One question for you
Things to read
📌 LinkedIn’s Newsletter Subscribers Quadrupled as Meta, Twitter Axed Products [The Information]
📌 LinkedIn finds early newsletter success, but there’s more to come [Insider]
📌 What is the future of news on LinkedIn? [Journalism.co.uk]
📌 There is no “peak newsletter” [NiemanLab]
📌 Finding a Buyer for TikTok May Not Be So Easy [NY Times]
That’s all for this issue. If you liked it, please share it on social or forward it to your colleagues and friends.