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SIIA 2012: Social drives growth, content for 'The Economist,' others

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New York—At the Software & Information Industry Summit Tuesday, U.K. publishing executives stressed the growing importance of social media in driving subscriber growth and adding content.

“Social media is central to our strategy,” said Eric Baumes, chief technology officer for The Economist's online editions, in a session titled, “The British Invasion: Leading the Global Media Change.” “We publish 90 to 100 articles in print weekly, but also another 100 articles online every week, and our readers contribute more than 1,000 pieces of content a day. That gives us scale we could only achieve otherwise by increasing editorial staff.”

Baumes said The Economist also has discovered that social media drives customer advocacy.

“We have 800,000 fans on Facebook and more than 1 million Twitter followers, and the traffic coming from social is approaching 10% of our overall site traffic,” he said.

While The Economist has a metered pay model for viewing its online content, Baumes said it offers a free “loophole” for those coming from social sites, reasoning they are more engaged and more likely to become online subscribers.

For the London-based newspaper Metro UK, social interactions have a public interest aspect in addition to providing added content.

“During the London riots last August, there were a lot of social comments shared and republished back into the print issue the next day,” said John Leitch, Metro UK exec director. “These weren't in support of the rioters but rather for those who were affected.”

The SIIA Summit is staged by the Software & Information Industry Association, a trade organization for the software and digital content industry. The summit concludes Wednesday.

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