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'The Economist' aims to expand brand through PBS documentaries

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The Economist is partnering with “PBS NewsHour” to run a series of documentaries to show a broader U.S. audience that there's more to its brand than just the magazine. “PBS attracts the same group of people that might be interested in The Economist. It's putting us in front of them,” said Gideon Lichfield, editorial director of The Economist Film Project, announced in December. “We feel like there's a much bigger audience we could reach.” PBS will broadcast four films—“The Edge of Joy,” “Wagah,” “Last Train Home” and “Good Fortune”—that The Economist selected from more than 600 submissions. The documentaries focus, respectively, on survival in a Nigerian maternity ward, a nightly ritual at the only border crossing by road between India and Pakistan, Chinese parents abandoning rural families in search of urban work, and the negative effect of foreign aid on Kenya. Lichfield said the venture should increase The Economist's exposure in the U.S. He also sees it as a way to showcase the message of the publication and its multiple media platforms. “It's a way to spread people's associations with The Economist, because we are perceived as a financial magazine even though more than two-thirds of the magazine is about international politics and global affairs,” he said. The effort is also designed to change the widespread perception of the brand as being just a print publication. The Economist recently conducted a survey to see what people thought of its online videos and found that “none of the people in our surveys knew we did video,” Lichfield said. With the film project, The Economist can show broader involvement, he said. “We are trying to encourage the kinds of films that do the same sort of thing that The Economist does, which is explain the world. So it's reaching a broader audience but also changing the perception of what The Economist does,” Lichfield said. “You may see other brand extensions coming up in the next few years,” he added. “The magazine is always going to be the core of it, and it's still a very profitable business, but it's a base we can build on.”
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