Messaging is the new social network. Like other publishers, Time magazine is getting on board, sharing articles on Japanese messaging app Line.
Time has been using Line to send out a story or two a day, all in English. Followers can also get news on a specific topic by messaging words to Time including science, entertainment and tech.
Parent company Time Inc. has accounts on WeChat, which is mostly used in China. Time also have a share button for WhatsApp on articles on Time.com (WhatsApp doesn’t enable a publisher presence on the actual app). But this is Time Inc.’s first foray on Line. Line, which came out of Japan in 2011, isn’t the biggest messaging app out there — with 218 million users, it’s dwarfed by WeChat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
Line has been a testbed for experimentation by other publishers such as The Economist, which has used it to share its weekly print cover and the BBC, animated videos. Publishers like Time are drawn to Line for its personalization features and services it offers beyond communication, like bill payment and taxi services. For Time, with more than a third of its web traffic coming from overseas, it’s a way to deepen its awareness with international audiences without heavy investment.
“We’ve been watching the messenger space for a while,” said Regina Buckley, senior vp of digital business development & business operations at Time Inc. “Consumers are there and in increasing numbers in general. Two, we’re very interested in how Line mashes together a Facebook and WhatApp and has a very immersive experience.”
In a week, Time’s racked up 125,000 followers on Line. That’s more or less in line with other publishers’ experience there. The Economist collected around 375,000 followers in six months. After 15 months, The Wall Street Journal had 2 million followers on Line.
Like other platforms and messaging apps, Line has its limitations. Time knows which countries its followers are coming from, but can’t tell how much traffic they’re getting from Line or any characteristics of its followers there (though it’s a safe bet that most of its followers are in Asia, given 60 percent of its users are in Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan, and judging by the popularity of stories on Asia that Time has been sharing).
Time is happy with the engagements it’s seeing when it posts to Line, though, especially of its Olympics and Asian coverage. One post about Estonian identical triplets competing against each other in Rio has gotten more than 1,000 likes. Another, which looked inside an overcrowded Philippines jail, got more than 1,000 likes and more than 1,000 comments.
“This really goes back to our Time Inc.-everywhere strategy,” said Callie Schweitzer, editorial director of audience strategy for Time, Time Inc. and millennial-aimed site Motto. “It’s a way to make sure our journalism is seen everywhere, all over the world.”