The Economist launches on Snapchat Discover

A 173-year-old newspaper ventures onto a new digital platform

Today we’re launching The Economist on Snapchat. Yes, that’s right. You’re probably as surprised as some of my colleagues are. I’m The Economist’s Snapchat editor and I’ve spent the past few months explaining to them why we were about to do this. Now we’ve launched—you can find us in the Discover section of the app every weekend—I thought the best way to explain our approach would be to give you a flavour of the conversations I’ve had.

Curious colleague: OK. The Economist on Snapchat Discover… really?

Lucy Rohr: I understand your incredulity. How does a 173-year-old publication, known for its global analysis and read by every American president since JFK, fit on a messaging app whose unique selling point is bite-sized, disappearing videos? But think about it for a moment. Snapchat Discover’s audience is forward-looking, globally curious and highly engaged with liberal causes. So The Economist is actually pretty well aligned.

CC: How so?

LR: Well, distilling global affairs into a compact bundle of information is our bread and butter. Identifying and explaining future trends — from post-truth politics to the rise of Uber— has long been our specialty. Advocating for liberal causes is in our DNA: we were founded in 1843 to campaign for free trade, and since then we’ve campaigned early and loudly on everything from legalising drugs (1988) to gay marriage (1996) to the right to die (2015).

CC: But how are you going to turn an 80-page news magazine into an edition on Snapchat Discover?

LR: We’re not. After several rounds of experimentation we decided that doing a deep dive into a specific issue every weekend was a format that worked very well for us. Themed editions are an ideal way for us to serve up our analysis in a fun and concise package that’s easy to consume anywhere. It’s what The Economist is known for, and we think this sits well on Snapchat Discover where there is plenty of daily news, but not as much in-depth analysis.

CC: So what kind of subjects are you covering?

LR: Stuff that’s visual, and that we think has broad appeal and relevance. Sometimes it will respond to the news—we might do an edition on how worried we should be about North Korea, for example. But we also want to reflect the breadth of our coverage as a paper. So we’re planning some fun editions on science and technology, language, cities… you’ll just have to wait and see.

CC: But how do you make it look and feel like The Economist?

LR: That was the next big challenge. Once we’d figured out the kinds of stories we wanted to tell, we came up with a design that’s in keeping with The Economist’s visual style — crisp, clean layouts, a couple of specific fonts, the same colour palette we use across all our designs — while also reflecting the playful aesthetic of Snapchat Discover. The design team really nailed it. They came up with a visual treatment that really brings our journalism to life, and brings levity to some of the heavier stuff we’re covering. As much as I want our journalism to set us apart, I think our design does too.

CC: And we’ll be doing this every weekend?

LR: Yes. Just as The Economist is a weekly, we’d like to think that our weekend editions on Discover will offer people an antidote to the information overload of today’s noisy news environment. I really want our readers to finish an edition feeling that they’ve learned something—and have been entertained at the same time.

CC: Well, best of luck.

LR: Thanks. But wait — are you going to check it out?

CC: I’ll consider it. Do I need a smartphone?

Lucy Rohr is Snapchat editor at The Economist.