Using Issues To Help Readers Achieve Finishability

Being economical with links and using issue-based publishing are key components in The Economist’s digital strategy. Should they be part of yours too?

‘Finishability’ allows readers to feel that they are on top of everything and gives them permission to do something else.

And it’s central to the strategy to The Economist, the 170 year old international business and world affairs publisher.

In recent interviews with NiemanLab and Australia’s Radio National Media Report, Deputy Editor, Tom Standage, has talked about how being “the antidote to information overload”, through minimising links and embracing issue-based publishing has shaped The Economist’s digital products.

Being frugal with links

Articles contain few links out to other content. There may be the odd link to related content produced by The Economist but very few to third-party organisations.

Whilst there’s clearly an economic benefit in keeping readers to yourself, not linking out further confirms to the reader that the article contains everything pertinent they need to know about the topic. There’s no need to go elsewhere.

As Standage also points out, The Economist’s style, based as it is on a singular assumption that only thing they don’t have to tell everyone is “who the President of the United States is”, helps reinforce this authority.

Issue-based publishing

Of course, pre-digital, The Economist, like all other publishers, only published in issues (or editions).

The internet ushered in the era of the river-of-news, the never-ending cycle that means that “you can’t finish Twitter. You can’t finish the internet”.

So, whilst The Economist has their website where they do publish stories as when they are completed, the app that delivers the weekly magazine does just that: delivers the same content as its paper cousin.

This is absolutely intentional. Standage says The Economist is a paper magazine that you can finish (unlike, he suggests a daily edition of the New York Times) and the weekly app should provide readers with the same experience.

In the same vein, Espresso, The Economists daily briefing, delivers a small collection of short articles each morning that tell readers “what’s on the global agenda in the coming day, what to look out for in business, finance and politics and, most importantly, what to make of it”.

The unique selling proposition here is that you don’t need to trawl your news feeds, scroll through pages of Twitter updates or read a ton of emails – The Economist team have done that for you, they’ve filtered all that information and come up with the 7 items that you need to know about.

Now, it obviously helps if you’ve been building your reputation for over 170 years but many publishers of a similar vintage have found the transition to digital difficult to say the least.

Standage sounds very upbeat and no wonder with subscriptions on the rise and reliance of advertising diminishing.

“The delivery has changed,” he says, “but not the job”.

And it seems, not forgetting the importance of issue-based publishing in helping readers achieve finishability.

If you are ready to build your 1st special issue or need issue publishing for WordPress, make sure you have a look at IssueM.

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