Economist Espresso app on a smartphone screen
Drupal Case Study

The Economist’s Espresso news app

How Drupal powers a publishing platform used daily by a global editorial team.

The Challenge

The Economist has published a weekly magazine in print for more than 170 years and wanted to create its first daily edition. Their aim was to create something different, an antidote to information overload, so they came up with Espresso a morning “shot” of news from across the globe, filtered to give readers essential information relevant to their interests.

The choice to go daily and digital was obvious. Given The Economist’s long-term investment in Drupal as its web technology of choice; using Drupal in a new, decoupled build-paradigm to build a Drupal backend for the native iOS and Android Espresso apps was a perfect fit. An external service provider – Cameron & Wilding, a London-based digital agency – was commissioned to set up a Drupal-based publishing platform that would enable a global team of editors to create three issues per day, all of which would drive a content feed to populate the Espresso app with articles.

Solution

A team of editors needed an online tool that they could access anywhere, anytime in order to publish five news stories every weekday morning across the Americas, Europe, and Asia. They needed to quickly and safely publish news stories to any or all regions as needed.

Drupal allowed the Economist editorial team to iteratively design and perfect a content creation and publishing workflow that exactly met their needs. This included automatic issue creation, content approval, and the look and feel of the interfaces that are the day-in, day-out workspaces of the content team, all on a very tight timeline: Technical product development began in July 2014, a working MVP was ready in September, the Espresso app launched in November, 2014 and was downloaded more than 340,000 times in the first month after launch.

The Drupal content creation interface was customised to eliminate any room for error in formatting and to allow the authors to focus on content. A dashboard was created for the editorial teams to quickly and effectively create and publish new issues; it provides visual indicators of approval status, countdown timers for each region, and quick links to edit each article.

countdown timers for each region

Any article, once created, can be attached to any or all of the three daily issues, allowing for simple publishing and fast reaction times to world events. The publishing engine is also customised to exclude weekends and public holidays.

Key Benefits

  • Drupal provided excellent usability out of the box and also allowed for the creation and customisation of editorial interfaces for quick and accurate creation of articles and whole issues.
  • The Espresso platform was launched in November 2014, offering a robust, scalable publishing platform that seamlessly serves up fresh content to more than 250,000 readers (and growing), three times a day. 
  • Basing this product on Drupal allowed for a highly collaborative and iterative product development process with the focus on the editorial team’s needs resulting in a brilliant product with very little wasted time and effort. Using Drupal, the team built the app and launched it to readers in less than four months.

Results & Feedback from the business

  • More than 340,000 app downloads in the first month after launch.
  • More than 250,000 daily readers.
  • “Editors don’t need to worry about formatting style, they can just add their text, stick in a picture and have to ready to publish – the CMS does the rest.”
  • “Access by multiple users allows us to hand over content and controls to our counterparts around the world.”

Implementation

Implementation by Cameron & Wilding Ltd., London.

The Economist manages 1.2 million articles, blog posts, videos and more, digitizes the monthly print magazine, authenticates users with tiered subscription levels across web and apps, serves a customized homepage to millions of users a day.
The Economist Screenshot

Facts & Figures

  • More than 340,000 app downloads in the first month after launch.
  • More than 250,000 daily readers.
  • “Editors don’t need to worry about formatting style, they can just add their text, stick in a picture and have to ready to publish – the CMS does the rest.”
  • “Access by multiple users allows us to hand over content and controls to our counterparts around the world.”

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