Convening for high-level debates

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The Economist online in June introduced “By Invitation,” a new feature designed to provide readers with access to leading economists in business and academia. Ron Diorio, VP-product and community development at The Economist online, talked about the program. Media Business: How does “By Invitation” dovetail with your overall sales and marketing strategy online? Ron Diorio: We try to develop products that are reader-focused because, when readers use the products and engage with them, it makes it much more effective for sales and marketing executives because they know they're going to be reaching an audience of active users. A good example is “The Economist Online Debate”—convening an audience to participate in a framework it can understand and allowing readers to contribute at a high level. MB: Is this an opportunity for advertisers to take more ownership of individual topics? Diorio: Advertisers can buy into the channel so they can have their message in banners and roadblocks on [discussion] pages. As the program expands, we want to make sure we're obtaining metrics on participation against each of the channels so we can inform advertisers about the potential to them. MB: What is the social-media component of the program? Diorio: We're using both Facebook and “tweets” to drive traffic. Because this is a new program, we'll see how people respond to it and whether we need to craft structures within Facebook and Twitter to make sure people recognize this program and want to be involved over time. —M.S.
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