Thinking Product: Economist Espresso magic

The Economist Espresso is a new digital product released by The Economist this year. The Espresso is a collection of 6 key pieces of news, a collection of smaller news bytes as part of “The world in brief” and a collection of market specific metrics.

The jobs to be done framework developed by Clay Chistensen explains that customers “hire” products to get a job done (More here). When I think of the job that readers of “The Economist” hire it to do, I think there are 2 kinds of jobs it is hired to do –
Use case 1 – “Make me smarter”  (majority)
Use case 2 – “Prevent me from looking stupid”
I think use case 1 is the majority because it is rare to come across environments where everyone reads and discusses “The Economist.” I’m sure there are isolated cases of teams where the manager is a huge fan and insists on discussing it with the team. But, for the most part, The Economist is akin to a “vitamin” rather than a “painkiller.”

However, newspapers / news apps exist largely for use case 2. Very few people ready the news to make them smarter. It is, after all, more of the same every single day – disaster and negativity coupled with a few bright spots. And, I suspect most people hire newspapers to prevent them from looking stupid when their colleagues or clients discuss the news.

That’s what makes The Economist Espresso a masterstroke. The Economist is now solving use case 2 by promising well curated news. The Espresso is helped greatly by The Economist’s stellar brand – we expect thoughtful, quality content and is a fantastic example of a brand extension. Even if The Economist refers to itself as a newspaper, it is generally a collection of weekly opinions and analysis. With Espresso, The Economist plays in the news domain and actually exists as a painkiller for use case 2.

The Espresso requires you to subscribe to the Digital edition for $22 per quarter. This means $1.83 per week to get smart news news 6 days a week? Absolutely. And, I would also get to read the top 10 odd articles, Editor’s picks and a couple of “round up” articles from The Economist as a bonus? This is fantastic. The presence of a painkiller completely changes the game.

the economist espresso

The Economist, then, follows it up with a beautifully designed app that is just a pleasure to read. I get “The Economist Espresso” by email and consume 3 other emails in the morning – TheSkimm, The Quartz newsletter and Ben Thompson’s “Stratechery” daily update. However, I always find myself archiving the Espresso email and heading over to the app because it is so pleasing to the eye. Even advertisements look gorgeous – so much so that I ignore the fact that I see an ad every day despite the fact that I’m paying for it. I think the maximum word count on an “agenda” item (there are 5 of these) is 150 words – just right for a quick skim. And, the world in brief pieces (7-8 of these) are no more than 75 words.

The only small nits I noted –
– It does feel more intuitive to swipe downward and go to the next article rather than swipe left
– The email edition ends with a quote – I can’t find it on the app
– The Espresso recently added a Saturday edition with news on the arts and sports. I, for one, always hope to find more sports coverage. Here’s hoping that changes going forward.

Overall, a fantastic experience thanks a smart combination of thoughtful product strategy and excellent execution.