The Economist newspaper plans to acquire 500,000 fans on Facebook and 750,000 followers on Twitter within six months, says the FT, calling it another sign that traditional publishers are looking to social media as a substantial source of web traffic and new readers.
The Financial Timesâ€™ report says that users of The Economist’s website will soon be able to log in to the site and make comments using their Facebook identity, through Facebook Connect. The website will also take on features similar to social networks, allowing readers to create profile pages and earn a reputation through other users’ recommendations of their comments on the site.
The Economist is one of two mainstream media that I pay to access the content (the other I subscribe to is the FT) and itâ€™s very interesting to see how the print and online publication is evolving and broadening its appeal to build connections with people specifically via social media channels like Facebook and Twitter.
The FT says that Economist publisher Ben Edwards hopes that Facebook will help his site acquire new readers and develop a "deeper level of engagement" with existing ones.
[â€¦] "We have a mission online of being the foremost destination for global discussion and debate, which is a social proposition," Mr Edwards told the Financial Times. Making Economist.com more social is "the core of our strategy", he said.
[â€¦] About 180,000 people have joined its official "fan page" on Facebook. A marketing budget of "tens of thousands of pounds" will be allocated to help boost those figures to meet its targets.
[â€¦] The Economist will also be "a lot more active" on Twitter, which will be a "full-time job", Mr Edwards said. "That shows the importance we place on it as a source of traffic," he said.
This looks like an entirely different model to the â€˜stick everything behind a subscriber firewall with little or nothing for freeâ€™ approach being advocated by other mainstream media such as News International (The Times, Sunday Times, etc) and The Guardian.
Who will win out? The Economist with its more social and engaging approach, or the othersâ€™ with their more hard-nosed pay-for-everything system?
The former has my vote.