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Digital Strategy 2018 - The Economist: strengthening trust by leveraging synergies

In the face of Digitalization, the press is confronting many challenges: adapting to new ways of consuming information, meeting the expectations of a persistent readership, diversifying their sources of income, etc. For The Economist, the solution is to offer its readers a high-quality experience. To this purpose, Stephane Pere is convinced that the synergies between physical and digital should not be underestimated.

This analysis was carried out following the interview of Sia Partners with:

Stephane Pere, Chief Data Officer 

"The subject is building a consistent customer experience. Previously, the question was about multichannel, it is now based on the alliance between physics and digital. Going further, for me, the real challenge is to determine which digital behaviors can contribute to identifying new areas of development in physics.”


Overcome the traditional organization silos. In many companies, the relationships between physical and digital are often understood according to a logic of distinction: the development of digital is thus conceived as a standalone project, separate from the physical, effectively omitting their complementarities. For Stephane Pere, the two worlds cannot be considered independently, as they’re deeply intertwined and tangible. For example, digital technology can provide relevant insights to understand and exploit physical behaviors. In a similar way, the physical world is notably the place of activation of the collected data. The dichotomy between digital and physical is less and less relevant, their interactions are indeed a reality for The Economist, rather than a strategic focus.  

However, the impact of digital on the physical activity of a company is not just a matter of data activation, far from it. According to Stephane Pere, the heart of the reflection must concern how the business model can be transformed by the synergies between physical and digital. Amazon, which went from a purely transactional offer to a model integrating web and logistics services as well as content, is the perfect illustration. Once exploitable complementarities have been identified, a consistent and quality customer experience can be built. 

An issue of increased customer knowledge and loyalty, more than customization. For Stephane Pere, the construction of this high-quality customer experience, which directly translates to increased audience and subscriptions, must be based on customer knowledge. To this purpose, The Economist set up a Data Management Platform in 2014, enabling it to build customer segments. However, unlike other press titles, Stephane Pere believes that the main challenge of his sector lies less in one-to-one personalization than in loyalty: exploiting the data for individual targeting would not help creating a trust relationship with the reader. In the case of The Economist, the digital must be used to identify behaviors that the physical can then exploit to create a habit of consumption among readers, which proves all the more difficult when this consumption is digital. For this reason, several key indicators are used in addition to the traditional ROI (return on investment), for example brand equity and customer lifetime: beyond the acquisition of new readers, establishing a long-term relationship with the audience remains crucial.

Cultivate an open mindset for external partnerships. In recent years, to create synergies between physical and digital, The Economist has multiplied its partnerships and diversified its media: audio application for the Apple Watch, presence on Snapchat UK, Bluetooth activation of prospects with geolocation, Instant Articles on Facebook. These collaborations show an openness that Stephane Pere deems essential. Social networks and different platforms should be considered as hubs of audience and consumption and not just as a way to drain readership to the site of The Economist; in the same way, the force of GAFA - Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon - should not be considered as a danger but as opportunities, because these pure players, now marketers, are the only ones able to offer truly innovative and interactive experiences and are likely to be interested in physics tomorrow, especially via digital marketing in the public space. A transversal vision is therefore indeed necessary to develop a quality experience, both the physical world is digitalized and the digital actors are investing the physical world.

Use case:

Under the leadership of Stephane Pere, The Economist has put in place an unprecedented device to test the relevance of a systematic digital loyalty strategy. The device was deployed on a specific offer, a 12-week subscription to paper and digital editions. Once the purchase is made, users' behavior is scrutinized during the first 4 weeks, with particular attention paid to new subscribers who do not benefit from their access to digital editions. Traditionally, new subscribers are the object of a well-studied dedicated program (personalized newsletters, questionnaires of satisfaction, invitation to prolong the subscription) and carried out by email; Subscribers who do not access the digital edition also receive reminders to encourage them to use all the possibilities of their subscription. This year, Stephane Pere decided to test the effectiveness of a physical activation by directly calling those users who are not yet readers of the digital edition of The Economist. The goal is to understand their motivations and their brakes. The key is a better understanding of the link between digital engagement and customer retention as well as a potential revaluation of physical recovery.



  • 1843 : date of creation of the magazine
  • 1997 : creation of the website
  • 2015 : Pearson, historic shareholder sells its shares to the Italian group Exor
  • 2016 : recruitment of a Head of Data Science


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