Is Political News the new Secret Weapon for Publishers? -Part 2

A few days ago I posted a blog on political news showing examples of how three publishers had adopted innovative strategies to boost subscriptions. In Part 2 we will be exploring additional organisations that have benefitted from the colossal news in politics.


El País

Spanish publisher El País have revealed a fairly unique strategy. They have had a Facebook Messenger bot that sent out automated news updates to followers each time a new article was posted on the main site. However, El País decided to up the stakes, and promoted the coverage in its print editions, handing out a specific Facebook messenger bot code that users could subscribe to. Using this approach, 1,000 readers received the alerts that El País sent about the French election. An astonishing 80% of these were new bot users.

You may dispute that these 1000 readers were not new visitors, however managing editor David Aladente stated, “It’s a good vehicle to keep loyal readers engaged. We can interact with people who wouldn’t usually go to our app or homepage. It’s an amazing way to reach younger audiences.” El País identified that this strategy would allow them to deepen a connection to their readers, and in turn increase user engagement.


The Economist

In the last week of May, The Economist grew its number of potential subscribers in the U.K. by 5,000. How? By offering free content. The Economist was targeting the U.K. general election on June 8th, and as a result of this, the publisher gave away their endorsement issue on June 3rd. Whilst it’s true that some publishers shot themselves in the foot when giving away free content, The Economist had no threats regarding this and went full speed ahead.

Executive Vice-President of brand and digital marketing at The Economist stated, “At the center of that is the realisation from our own research that if you present content in front of people, they have a higher propensity to subscribe.”

The priority for The Economist was reaching first time voters who have just turned 18. This strategy ties in hand in hand with publishers who are prioritizing Millennials and Generation Z’s, as they have a greater understanding of technology, so these new and innovative methods of reporting would appeal to them most. The Economist used third party lists in order to gain email addresses of thousands of 18 year olds in the U.K.,  to ultimately steer them toward the digital edition of the endorsement issue.



Like many other publishers, Slate has had a huge influx in subscribers due to a certain Donald J. Trump. Slate boasts an increase of 46% since Election Day on its Slate Plus premium membership service. Slate boasts 26,700 members. Gabe Roth, head of Slate Plus stated that the program was in a “steady unspectacular growth” – pre election. Slate had cut the price of an annual subscription from $50 to $35, couple this with Trump winning the election, and the influx of fake news that followed, the subscriptions kept increasing.

Whilst some journalists turn their noses up at paywalls due to the fact that their work will reach a limited audience, this hasn’t been an issue for Slate’s writers, as Slate opted to keep their website free, whilst giving members little perks.These perks range from ad-free podcasts, members only stories, and discounts to live events.



The Spectator broke the news that they doubled their daily traffic, to 270,000 page views, all thanks to the snap election called by Theresa May. They also managed to triple the amount of paying subscribers they get on an average day, with the number increasing to 400 new subscriptions per day. The number of total paying subscribers sits at 67,000.

The Spectator is probably one of the few UK publishers able to release new initiatives in record time. The Spectator took just two hours to upload a 25-minute podcast when Theresa May broke the news to the world that there would be an election on June 8th. The Spectator’s editor Fraser Nelson said “The BBC website and others can bring the news and the quotes, but the best place for live analysis is The Spectator. We can get our podcast up hours before big-budget players like the Financial Times,” Nelson however was very keen to point out that the increase in subscriptions isn’t purely due to the snap election, Brexit or Trump. People are realising the benefits of reliable quality content, and the only way to get anything that’s top drawer is by paying for it.

A lot of publishers have reported heavily on politics and the elections and many have tried and tested ‘just out’ strategies with a number of players becoming fruitful. Whether it’s a cut in subscription, speed to market, controversial reporting, or targeting a certain demographic, every strategy has paid dividends in some way.

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