Keeping our LINE strategy in shape

A review of what we’ve done so far on the chat app

When The Economist joined the Japanese chat app LINE in January 2016, our goal was twofold. First, we wanted to use LINE to build a highly engaged audience in Asia. Second and more broadly, we aimed to raise awareness among the globally curious and puncture the myth that The Economist is solely focused on finance and economics.

Eighteen months later, our goals remain the same. We’ve built an audience of more than 900,000 followers. I’d like to reflect on this, and detail three distinct ways we’ve adapted our approach to help us reach our goals as the platform and the audience have evolved.

1. We are increasing the frequency of push notifications

The ability to experiment with push notifications, and to evaluate how messaging apps should fit into our broader social-media strategy, was one of the attractive features that led us to start publishing on LINE. Starting in late 2016, we ramped up the number of pushes from three to four a week to at least once a day.

A selection of The Economist’s push notifications on LINE

Tapping on the push notification takes users to a bite-sized card linked to the story. This is made from a template, which is flexible enough to accommodate news photos, charts, illustrations and covers, while ensuring stylistic consistency. Although these graphics take more effort to produce than posting a link on our home page on the LINE app, they typically drive between five to ten times more traffic back to our website.

2. We’ve expanded the breadth of our posts

When we first joined LINE, we limited our posts to stories related to Asia, where the app is most popular. However, it quickly became apparent that our audience was more dispersed and diverse. America, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Britain routinely appear in the list of top 10 countries sending us the most clicks. We hadn’t expected users in these countries to take up such an active share of our overall audience.

We realised that this increasingly diverse audience would be better served by a wider range of content. It would also help us advance our goal of showcasing the breadth of our journalism. We then actively curated stories from sections such as Science and technology and Books and arts, and we sourced multimedia content from our Instagram page and our colleagues at Economist Films. Today, the breadth of our LINE posts mirrors that of our print, online and social content.

In retrospect, this was an obvious shift: The Economist is known for providing a global perspective on current affairs, rather than assuming that people in a particular part of the world just want to hear about what’s going on in that region. Wherever they are, and whatever platform they are using, Economist readers want to understand the bigger picture.

A snapshot of The Economist’s home-page posts on LINE

3. We are showcasing more content behind the paywall

For over a year, our push notifications were reserved for free stories only. We’ve since gradually started including stories behind our paywall. It’s a metered paywall, which means readers can see one story a week, or three if they register, without paying. To increase the number of push notifications, dipping into the story pool behind the paywall was inevitable. But this was also a deliberate choice. The mission of The Economist’s social media team is to increase awareness and, ultimately, paid subscribers. Posting our content on LINE widens the top of the audience funnel, as the marketing folks say, but the ultimate goal is to turn engaged followers into registered users on our website, and (we hope) into loyal subscribers.

As we inch towards a million followers on LINE, we would like your feedback. What would you like to see from The Economist on LINE? Are there any other features you would like to see beyond push notifications and home-page posts? Let us know in the comments below.

Sunnie Huang is a social media writer at The Economist.