The Economist Will Pitch Sponsored Mini-Documentaries in Its NewFronts Debut

Legacy publisher to offer video formats

The Economist—the 172-year-old British publication known for its thoughtful perspectives on politics, international affairs and finance—will showcase Economist Films for the first time during this year's Digital Content NewFronts.

On May 10 in New York, the publisher will tout video formats including virtual reality, highlight examples of previous films and explain its approach to sponsored content for the video vertical, which launched in June. According to Economist Films president Nicholas Minter-Green, the media company's NewFronts debut will be "a bit of a coming out party" for the project after its first year.

"I think it's a chance for people to understand what we're doing," he said. "Almost from an existential point of view, to really show people what we've done in the past for our brand and to understand why we make the content the way we make it, how we partner with brands we work with and what we think our role in all of this online video might be."

Since launching, Economist Films has produced a number of 15-minute mini-documentaries inspired by stories in the publication's weekly newspaper. The films have often been paired with sponsored content related to the topics: Its Global Compass social affairs series was sponsored by Virgin Unite, and a tech-business series Futureworks was backed by Salesforce. Economist Films also produced a 30-minute documentary to coincide with The World in 2016, an annual installment of analysis and predictions for the coming year.

"It opens up an ecosystem where the sponsor is developing its own native content to offer alongside, or to sort of augment what we're doing editorially with brand content, where the brand has genuinely something to add where it makes complete sense," Minter-Green said.

The Economist has spent the past 18 months expanding digital and print efforts. A few months before the launch of Economist Films, it launched Economist Espresso, a mobile app featuring several short stories a day. Last month, it debuted 1843, a lifestyle magazine rebranded from the former Intelligent Life magazine.

Economist Films joins a number of media additions to the NewFronts this year, including CNN and ActivisionBlizzard

Minter-Green said The Economist believes there's an appetite for longer social content—within the 15-minute to 20-minute mark—that takes on meaty issues with a global perspective, paired with other softer-but-interesting stories related to technology and business. 

While NewFronts is a "step into the unknown," Minter-Green said it feels like a natural place to be.

"It's, like, yes, yes, yes—that's us," he said. "It feels very natural. And it's exciting that the people across those two weeks [of presentations] are the people we both sort of admire and sometimes compete with and sometimes get inspired from."