Economist engages younger audiences with Snapchat

By Lucy Rohr

The Economist

New York City, USA


When it came to engaging with the Millennial audience and its heavy use of the Snapchat platform, we at The Economist had to ask ourselves: Is it possible to translate our distinctive editorial voice for a messaging app whose unique selling point is bite-sized, disappearing videos?

After a period of discussion, experimentation, and reflection, we decided our expertise in spotting global trends, helping curious readers make sense of the future, and advocacy of liberal causes would appeal to Snapchat’s young, forward-looking audience.

So what does The Economist look like for the user?

Our Snap editions live for a full week and include 14 to 17 snaps (each a 10-second animated video), supplemented with reporting, analysis, charts, maps, and videos from The Economists world-wide editorial team. Unlike other publishers on Snapchat’s Discover, whose editions usually cover an assortment of topics and issues, our weekly edition tends to do a deep dive into a single subject.  

In the six or so months we’ve been on the Discover platform we have examined a wide range of issues, such as:

  • North Korea’s nuclear capability in “How Afraid Should You Be Of North Korea?”
  • Exoplanets and the hunt for alien life in “Are We Alone In The Universe?”
  • The legalisation of drugs in “What Happens When You Legalise Drugs?”
  • Internet censorship in China in “How China Controls The Internet.”

These single-issue editions let us distill, explain, and contextualise events. Snaps like the one below, poking fun at the North Korean leader, exemplify how The Economist is seeking to combine editorial wit, playful design, and pithy copy on the platform.

The Economist’s snap pokes fun at the North Korean leader.
The Economist’s snap pokes fun at the North Korean leader.

Discover’s format of swipeable “snaps” is a good fit for our style of journalism, which provides information in a concentrated, concise, and finishable package. Some snaps stand alone, while others invite the reader to “swipe up” for a video, infographic, or article derived from The Economist’s existing output.

For example, our snap from the drugs edition prompted the user to ponder if pot could actually be a revenue source. Swiping-up on this snap gives the user the opportunity to read Economist reporting, analysis, and opinion.

We like to think that the success of The Economist's editions on Discover reveals how journalism need not be dumbed down for a Snapchat audience — and that the app’s users are interested in more than just celebrity news and make-up tips. And it has proved fruitful for us, as we see approximately 60% of our content read by those under 25 years old, with an even gender split. These are metrics somewhat different from The Economist’s traditional 44-year-old male, which makes up the print edition.

Snapchat represents one example of how future generations will consume journalism: in multi-media form combining images, video, and text — all optimised for display on a handheld device. We are proud of the way we have translated our journalism to this radically different platform. We see our Snapchat editions as a work in progress that we will continue innovating.

About Lucy Rohr

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