Enhancing the Economist subscriber experience by allowing subscribers to gift articles.
Article gifting has consistently been the #1 requested feature on our subscriber surveys over the last five years. Part of the reason people subscribe to The Economist is to share and discuss topics with people around them – we currently make this difficult because people who land on our site have to either register or subscribe to read.
Although this was always a top requested feature, it wasn’t easy to test whether subscribers would make use of this benefit if it were available. So, we organized a small working group and designed a test to run live on the site.
Hypothesis: By reducing friction in sharing articles, subscribers will feel that they are getting more from their subscription when they share content with their friends and family.
"I like the idea of sharing a quality read without having to worry about my friend not having a subscription."
Hundreds of readers had similar requests in our annual subscriber survey
Lead product designer – I led a small working group in creating and launching the article gifting beta feature. I worked as the end-to-end designer.
Economist subscribers couldn’t share unpaywalled articles with friends and colleagues – users who want to read on economist.com usually have to register or subscribe.
Lots of happy customers – feature now launched to 100% of subscribers
Average 3,000+ articles gifted with a 1.38% CTR during month-long test
We worked on this feature with a small cross-functional team – one designer (me), one PM, one data analyst, and one engineer.
I conducted some initial competitor benchmarking and organized a workshop to get aligned on a solution. We co-designed potential approaches, and I gathered our ideas to prepare wireframes.
For the test, we decided to only test it on the desktop site – we noticed that competitors generally took different approaches to sharing on mobile, so we wanted to keep it simple to gather initial data. We also decided to not limit access to gifted articles to observe recipient usage and engagement.
I wireframed different journeys for both gifters and recipients and explored options for presenting the gifting CTA. One of the things we considered was placement – would readers be more likely to gift at the start, during, or after reading an article? We decided to place the CTA next to our other sharing icons, to match users' expectations.
In this process, we collaborated closely with engineering to ensure we were designing a simple MVP for the purpose of the test. We continued working through options until narrowing it down to an initial MVP solution.
DESIGN SYSTEM COMPONENTS
I adapted two existing design system components to quickly build the gifting feature: our modal and actioned link.
I created a variation of our modal and added a beta feature banner to collect subscribers' feedback, which linked to a short survey.
I created a variation of our actioned link and included a gifting icon, which launches the gifting modal.
I also included the ability to email gift links – we found this was particularly useful for our older audiences who share content via email
By leveraging the design system, we were able to design, build, and launch the gifting test in two weeks.
This project was really fun – with a small team, we had the space to experiment and fully lead the direction of this feature.
It was also a different approach to providing value. In this case, we measured success not just from engagement metrics, but in the feedback we received from happy subscribers.
With an average 3,000+ article gifted and a 1.38% CTR during the month-long test, this feature has now been launched to 100% of subscribers.
“This is a long-overdue feature for economist subscribers. Every other major publication I subscribe to — The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico's newsletters — permit some form of article sharing for subscribers. It's high time The Economist did the same. Bravo.”
“Great content deserves to be widely shared! THANK YOU for introducing this feature, which boosts the value of my too-expensive subscription!”