The Economist has struck up a partnership with Penguin Shorts, the publisher’s digital short-form content brand, to publish a series of reports to attract new customers and provide existing subscribers with an alternative way to consume content.
The Economist will initially launch with five titles that were previously published within the magazine under the Penguin Economist Specials name. Penguin Specials is a sub-brand of Penguin Shorts, which focuses on contemporary journalism and essays.
Tom Standage, The Economist’s digital editor, said, “We’re trying to encourage subscribers to think of themselves as subscribers to a weekly bundle of content, rather than subscribers to a print magazine. How they choose to consume content, which may change from week to week, or day to day, is up to them.”
The Economist’s special reports tend to be around 15,000 words long and are self contained, so are well suited to the ebook format.
“We think there is an opportunity there to sell far more ebook versions than we would physical reprints,” he said. “It’s a very simple and convenient way for readers to access content. The big question is, do we do it ourselves or do we do it through a publisher?”
Standage said the partnership with Penguin is part of an experiment to work out the best approach to delivering ebooks. The Economist already has Amazon Kindle versions of special reports and other ebook platforms, which it is publishing itself.
“If Penguin can convince us that working with a publisher has benefits then potentially we’ll do everything with them, but we haven’t made that decision yet,” he said.
One of the main benefits Standage sees the collaboration providing is the ability to target a wider audience. “Penguin offers us the scope to reach out to readers who aren’t familiar with The Economist and give them an opportunity to see what our content is like,” he said. “We hope that it could also have the knock-on effect of driving interest in the magazine too.”
Nathan Hull, Penguin digital publisher, said partnering with publishers like The Economist allows it to reach a different type of audience. “The partnerships we’re looking at cover new talent and new reach in all kinds of ways,” he said. “The partnership with The Economist is not that different to our partnership with Mind Candy [the East London tech company responsible for Moshi Monsters]. These types of partnerships will benefit both the partner and Penguin within the digital space.”
Keeping the Penguin name within the Penguin Shorts brand has also enabled the company to increase searchability and improve the ability to cross sell on retail platforms.
“One of the reasons we’re doing short-form publishing is because digital allows us to be reactive,” said Hull. “There is increasing research showing us that people want to consume short-form content because their habits are changing. Penguin Shorts are a perfect way to get people into reading who may not normally because they lead busy lives.”.
Penguin will market the Penguin Shorts brand in a way that reflects this, so will be targeting commuters in stations and airports.
Penguin Economist Specials will be available from 1 March priced at £1.99 each. Subscribers of The Economist can access the reports free online.
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