HONG KONG/LONDON: The Economist, the UK current affairs magazine, has become the first publisher to use mobile messaging app Line to send audio alerts as it seeks to increase readership in Asia and other markets.

The first of these voice push alerts featured the sound of the Mekong River as well as an audio clip interview with its Southeast Asia bureau chief discussing Myanmar.

Digital subscriptions to The Economist have grown 45% year-on-year in Asia, which is a key market for the publisher, according to Denise Law, the community editor at The Economist who oversees social media innovation.

She told The Drum that the company sees little strategic sense in trying to build print circulation in a region where consumers increasingly spend their time in mobile chat apps.

"We would rather try to reach new audiences on channels that they are already spending a lot of their time," she said in reference to Line's popularity in Southeast Asia and its home market of Japan.

Law explained that The Economist opted for Line instead of WhatsApp, a Facebook-owned rival, because of the way it delivers "really beautifully crafted templates" for publishers to send content to users.

Furthermore, when it comes to accessing content, Line users simply have to search for a publisher's page whereas WhatsApp users have to login in with their phone number.

"The way I describe Line as a platform is a like a souped-up version of Facebook Messenger but you also get to do things like make payments on it, chat to your friends, share things, buy stickers and play games," Law said. "It's like a one stop shop for everything you want to do on the internet."

She added that the priority for The Economist at the moment is to grow readership and increase awareness, but once it has gathered more audience data it will then start on trying to convert readers into paying subscribers.

The Economist's use of social media was the subject of a Warc webinar earlier this year in which the company's global digital lead explained that it has adopted a "hedging strategy". (For more, including details of the brand's three-step strategy, read Warc's report: Reach and revenue: How The Economist is using social media.)

Data sourced from The Drum; additional content by Warc staff