Defining a strategy for The Economist newsletters

User Research, Product Design, Strategy


During my years at The Economist I've been curating the launch of different newsletters - and in the last year I've been focussed on the strategy to move all their newsletters portfolio to subscriber only.

This case study will focus on the two sprint length discovery on how might we promote subscriber only newsletters - after The Economist planned to deliver more newsletters that would be available only for subscribers in September 2022


The Economist had the plan to add new subscribers only newsletters in the next quarter of the year. I was asked to analyse the users behavious, trends and competitors strategies in order to define those simple steps that could help promote newsletters that are available only with an Economist subscription.

The Economist newsletters are editorial pieces, analysis on socio-political or scientific available only on our inboxes. We wanted to have clear what the messages and content of these newsletters were. 


Initially I've run a serie of user testing while defining the most simple way for a user to sign up to newsletter. I've then highlighted there what our user outspoken concerns and considerations were and framed those as simple problems to be solved. I've learned that the newsletters identities we were using were clear and beautiful to see, but that the message on the card was still not enough for the user to understand what each newsletter topic was about. Users were keen on discovering more about the newsletter. It was clear that we needed a preview of what the content.

From there I've start mapping all those journeys that were referring to the our newsletters portfolio within the Economist website but also not only. I've also interviewed our stakeholders and editors to understand their pain points and goals.


At the end of the first week we were able to list our key-takeouts of our first analysis:

1. The Economist editors can't promote subscriber only newsletters: We learned that our editors couldn't promote subscriber exclusive newsletters because we were lacking of subscriber only landing pages which could be easily promote.

2. Newsletters were not visible within our publication: these are not present at first sight on homepage or on the web footer; They are not really visible on our apps, on our emails, or podcasts, and almost never mentioned on our print edition.

3. Non subscribers can’t discover subs only newsletters: as an anonymous user I’m not able to discover more about our subs-only newsletter content if not on the hub - and the tests highlighted that content wasn’t enough.

4. The Economist core App doesn’t promote newsletters: there are not links that promote our newsletters - only at the bottom of an article as hyperlink which are organically produced by our editors and they all link to the newsletter hub which has been recently deployed


Not all our competitors have content that is exclusive to subscribers. But the majority do. Especially when we're talking about premium analysis delivered by world class journalists. For our readers, my dear users, this means exclusivity and premium quality. We needed then to discover what was the element that could distinguish among others and what were the different strategies that competitors like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post were taking into consideration.

After analysis and mapping all the different features, we discovered that between our competitors The Economist was the only one to not have a preview functionality and a subscriber only landing page. It was also clear that we could do a better job on cross promoting newsletters within all our channels, core apps and main website included.


We concentrate on the design solution for: 1) Subscriber only newsletters awareness within The Economist; 2) Newsletter promotion within our website;  3) Editorial and transactional emails; 4) Promotion within the apps;

1 - SUBSCRIBER ONLY NEWSLETTER AWARENESS WITHIN THE ECONOMIST : We met with the editorial team to present the insights of this quick discovery. By presenting them to our competitors' strategies we discussed some specific ways we could do a better job in promoting our newsletters. We came out from the meeting defining an awareness campaign & pre-launch product launch strategy. 

2 - NEWSLETTER PROMOTION WITHIN OUR WEBSITE : We've defined possible design solutions to test on our website. The discovery highlighted that there were quite fewer user journey that brought our users to the general awarness of our email and that there were many features that we should discuss within our stakeholders.

The discovery highlighted that compared to our competitors The Economist was missing the following features: 1) Newsletters aren’t promoted on homepage; 2) Newsletters aren’t visible on footer; 3) The World in Brief - aka Espresso, distilled news by The Economist editors - isn't promoted on homepage; 4) Article feature that promote any newsletter but also the decision to move all our portfolio to subscribers only; 5) The newsletters listing page or section page with a link to each newsletter landing page; 6) Article hyperlinks on top or footer; 7) Newsletter link promoted on podcast page;

Our main design solution: Newsletter preview within the newsletter card component; Sign up from the newsletter preview; Subscriber only newsletter sign- up pages; Recycle the newsletters card component within different pages on the Economist website; Newsletters promoted within the article page, homepage and section pages;

 3 - EDITORIAL & TRANSACTIONAL EMAILS : The discovery highlighted that compared to our competitors we’re missing the following features: 1) Newsletter promotion within Today newsletter; 2) Lack of any newsletter hub promotion within newsletters; 3) No newsletter promotion within any transactional email; 4) Footer in editorial and transactional email with no hub link; 5) Hub or Section page with a link to newsletters landing page; 6) Hyperlinks that promote the newsletters at the top and/or bottom of the article page;

4 - PROMOTION WITHIN THE APP : After that essential meeting we've also talked to our Core app and espresso team - as the discovery highlighted that there subscriber only newsletters were not really mentioned within our apps - and we've opened a conversation on how to better simplify those user journey and when would it be possible to integrate those newsletters with our apps users experiences.


At the end of these two weeks Discovery we've start to align everything together with The Product Manager and the Newsletter editor - our main stakeholder. We came out with actionable points that could be eventually move to the roadmap or take it into account by Editorial themselves.

These points were essential to promote to our readers the business decision to promote our own subscriber only newsletters but also to create a campaign of awarness to our wider audience.These points are:

1) Start discovery for the subscriber only landing pages;

2) A way to promote on the hub the new newsletter;

3) A way to promote newsletters on article pages, section pages and newsletters without taking on much efforts aka recycling components;

4) Testing different design solutions on our editorial newsletters and transactional emails;

5) Newsletters promotion within section, podcasts & hub pages;

6) Define with our editors how to promote subs-only newsletters and how to start speaking about those within our social media channels and within the editors channels;

7) Keep alignment between our different products and sollicit the app teams that we're going to need our newsletters portfolio highlight within the app;


As said on previously, the design discovery unlocked some actionable items to build as proper pages and these were: 

1) Featured articles - The discovery revealed that our competitors were always sharing the news of their newsletter strategy or the launch of new newsletters with an article that was appearing throughout their coverage on newsletters appearing on our competitors homepage, newsletters, apps and mainly google! As for SEO articles that convey the word newsletter will appear at the top.

Below on the slide you can see the realisation of the strategy with the new newsletter launched in July 2022 ‘The Bottom Line’ as well as others.

2) Newsletter Preview - The newsletter hub is the home of The Economist newsletters. We’ve released this page in multiple iterations offering first entitlement of users with their specific sign up functionality whether they would be anonymous or registered. On a second stage we’ve introduced the preview functionality where also an anonymous user is capable of previewing a subscriber only newsletter - even if this is one month old so that we can promote some kind of trigger for promotion.

3) Subscriber-only Newsletters Landing Pages - The discovery highlighted the need for subscriber only landing pages to promote easily our newsletters within our channels but also directly by our editors. There was a need for a page where the user was able to understand what the newsletter was really about and sign up to it.

With three - or maybe more ;) - exclusive newsletter launches we have seen the strategy proposed in action and here on the right are the results about how they look.



✦ Unmoderated and moderated user research 

✦ Competitors analysis and market research

✦ Insights synthesis and opportunity analysis

✦ Brand vision definition with stakehlders & conversation to ignite collaboration within different teams

✦ Design soltutions and prioritisation of our roadmap

✦ Testing outcomes with UX sketches

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