David Hickey is Editor in Chief of Newsflare. He is a journalism leader with 15-plus years of experience working in newsrooms, with a track record...Read more
Norway has long been recognised as one of the world’s most innovative countries. Its heritage in natural resource and maritime innovation created wealth and security, and a platform from which it could lead the world in tech. The Norwegian government has been proactive in the provision of world-leading telecom services to its citizens, and in supporting innovation and entrepreneurship. Perhaps the area where this cultural drive for innovation is best demonstrated is Norway’s unique digital media landscape.
A country with a proud print news heritage, Norway is now recognised as a dominant force in digital news. Of course, the fact every citizen in Norway is connected to high-speed internet wherever they travel and has been for many years has played a significant part in this digital dominance (88% of Norwegians access online news weekly). But that’s far too simplistic an explanation for why readers don’t seem to mind parting with their Kroner each month to ensure access to their favorite digital news sources.
So why does Norwegian media lead the world in digital news, and what lessons can be learned? Newsflare spoke to Bjørn Carlsen, Head of Video at Dagbladet, one of Norway’s largest newspaper groups, and uncovered 7 key reasons for its success:
1. Good journalism is worth paying for
Digital subscriptions make serving quality journalism to readers the number one priority for publishers in Norway. Just a few years ago, nearly all digital news was free and publishers believed readers would not pay for content. Today 42% of Norwegians show high willingness to pay for online news and many publishers have introduced paywalls.
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Dagbladet has been serving news for over 150 years. It was one of the first publishers to take its newspapers online, publishing for free and quickly building up a digital audience, which was significant by the time it launched Dagbladet+, its digital subscription model. Dagbladet has learned that digital subscribers, like traditional subscribers, appreciate quality journalism. It’s impossible to be successful in the digital news market without delivering the best every day, every hour, every minute – not only breaking stories, but also a value-added user experience with exclusive stories, interesting and surprising content. Overall this creates the feeling that its news is worth paying for.
2. Be fast, be first, and be reliable
Dagbladet believes a key factor in its success in today’s ultra-competitive publishing environment is always being fast and first with breaking news – tracking down and delivering news as it happens. But more than this, Dagbladet believes in the value of reliability.
Today everybody is exposed to a constant bombardment of information, an infinite stream of news nuggets, and noisy opinions on everything and anything, delivered through screens and smartphones. But what’s real and what’s not?
The fake news and clickbait phenomena are putting the news publishing industry through a crisis of public confidence with the paradox being that in times of crisis, or when major global events are taking place, the news has a vital role to play in keeping audiences informed. Dagbladet believes that whether accessing its free or premium service, reliability and trust are vital. Every time it performs well on a breaking news story – tells it first, tells it fast and tells it accurately – they see readers come back the next time a major news event takes place. Some of those become daily users, and even more importantly some of them go on to subscribe.
It’s about meeting expectations. If you win, then you improve trust between the user and the news brand and they’ll become loyal fans.
3. Content must be exclusive, interesting and entertaining
Whether it’s breaking news, sport, entertainment, culture, or finance – the rule of value exchange applies. Don’t take something from your audience without fulfilling your part of the bargain. If you want people to pay, then the content they’re paying for must be exclusive, interesting, entertaining, and relevant to them – they are, after all, paying for access to information that helps them live better.
The success of Dagbladet’s digital news model is driven by constant investment in unique, distinctive content that provides readers with a perspective, angle, or reporting they can’t find anywhere else. The same goes for viral stories and entertaining content. By doing this continually, Dagbladet has engaged users and is turning those engaged users into paying digital subscribers without losing advertising revenue, audience, or impact.
4. Video is vital
Today almost every report or breaking news package opens with a video. Because people want to watch, we want to see first-hand accounts – journalism is being changed forever by viewer behaviors. Dagbladet believes that as well as being fast and providing a unique angle on a story, they must harvest unique footage to support their storytelling. As the saying goes a picture paints a thousand words!
Eyewitness video allows Dagbladet to also first to the scene. They recognise that the journalism skill set is changing because they’re no longer the only ones telling the stories and covering the events that are shaping the world – their readers and subscribers are. Dagbladet was quick to catch on to the explosive growth in video traffic and its potential as a new income stream. Since August 2018 it has experienced 500% growth in video traffic and driven a 1,500% revenue growth.
5. Don’t forget you’re not just telling a story, you’re grabbing the attention
We are operating in the attention economy. Human attention, as a measure of success, is fast becoming a unit of trade and news publishers are not immune, they are competing with the likes of TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and even Candy Crush for the attention of users. Dagbladet recognise this, they know they must invest in also providing content that ‘kills time’ – be it the latest adorable pet video, celebrity tweet, or ‘break the internet’ moment of the day – and that capturing videos from all over the world ensures they can remain relevant and make themselves impossible to ignore when the competition is at an all-time high for people’s attention.
6. Quality at scale
Media publishers face constant pressure to produce enough creative assets to capture the fleeting attention of visually-oriented readers, and harvesting user-generated content allows them to keep up. This is in part due to the improving quality of content and the fact that everyone in the world can be a citizen journalist/content creator with the state-of-the-art cameras built into their phones and lighting kits on hand. But it’s also because UGC is resonating with audiences – they crave something that’s authentic, relatable. But one of the biggest pain points is finding enough good quality and exclusive content.
This is where the importance of a strong UGC marketplace is vital – Dagbladet partners with Newsflare, amongst others. To ensure they keep the content flowing, and importantly it’s moderated and curated to ensure quality at scale.
7. Be a brand-safe destination
Dagbladet caught on quickly that just as audience personas were pivoting attention even more in the direction of digital channels, so too were advertisers. Being a brand-safe destination for advertisers has been a key ingredient in the secret sauce of Dagbladet’s success.
UGC as a part of its storytelling is rich, authentic, and engaging, allowing Dagbladet’s readers to play their part in the subjects that matter to them. If that subject matter relates in whole or in part to a product or service, then it’s the perfect opportunity to monetise the content with advertising and affiliate marketing.
Dagbladet ensures it has something for everyone – breaking news, niche, and evergreen content, short stories, long stories, entertaining content, and high-quality virals. It’s the destination for Norway’s readers and the destination for its advertisers. This is why even in a country that leads the world in digital news, it stands as a pioneer and is growing fast as a result.