Seven inspiring examples for the digital newspaper strategy

By Kenneth Boll | Apr 01 2014 | Insights

How readers and advertisers affect and are affected by the digital transformation - inspiration to a digital newspaper strategy.

The media company's employees, along with advertisers and readers, influence and are influenced by the newspaper's development from print to digital, and from newspaper distribution to media brand. Here are seven examples of this development, which have been taken from actual new digital media trends and products.

1. The morning edition comes out the night before

A growing number of media houses are opting to publish digital versions of their newspapers immediately after sending the physical paper edition to print. Readers have welcomed this trend and fresh business news generates evening traffic on web browsers, smartphones and tablets.

"Overall, reader habits have changed primarily due to technology, particularly on iPad, but from 2010 to 2013, reader numbers of the electronic newspaper have tripled. We've seen a particular increase in our digital readership after 10:30 pm, so you can safely say that reader habits are changing dramatically," says news editor Jørgen Andresen of Børsen.

"I really like the selected, prioritised content, which continues to serve as the newspapers' forte. I've also noticed that I've gone from reading the news in the morning to in the evening. I generally only read our newspapers when they're digitally released in the evening."

Stig Kirk Ørskov, CEO of JP/Politikens Hus, in a statement made to Jyllands-Posten on 4 March 2013

2. More readers opting for digital subscriptions

The Norwegian newspaper Bergens Tidende is experiencing a welcome increase in its subscription base. Sixty-five per cent of new subscriptions are either fully digital, or digital with the weekend delivery of the printed newspaper, and the number of readers of the digital edition has multiplied tenfold in just one year.

"We've changed our subscription structure so that all customers have the digital subscription as the standard product. From that basis, they can opt to have the printed edition delivered at the weekend for just 50 kroner extra, or for 100 kroner a month they can have it delivered all week," says CEO Andreas Thorsheim of Bergens Tidende.

"Before we implemented these changes, 90 per cent of our customers had the printed edition delivered throughout the week, eight per cent were weekend customers and two per cent were digital subscribers. Now this structure has been completely inverted: 65 per cent of our new customers purchase either a digital subscription or a digital package that includes weekend delivery of the printed edition," Thorsheim explains.

3. Digital-only newspapers on the rise

Even if a newspaper does not come out in print, it can still resemble its paper counterpart. Many media companies are publishing digital-only versions of their newspapers on days that are otherwise newspaper-free, i.e. at weekends and on holidays. In Sweden, 39,000 readers – which equals one third of the total subscribers – downloaded the digital version of Sydsvenskan on All Saints' Day.

"We've started to publish the digital newspaper 365 days a year, that is, also on the days when there's no printed edition of the paper. For each of these 'paperless days,' we've seen growth in our readership. Prior to All Saints' Day, when there would be no printed edition, we made an extra effort to communicate the fact that the newspaper would be coming out as usual, but in a digital edition only, and this appears to have had an effect," says Business Developer Pontus Jeppsson of Sydsvenskan.

4. Online evening editions see the light of day

Hufvudstadsbladet, a morning newspaper from Finland, launched a new digital edition in January which comes out daily at 4 pm. Hbl Kväll, as the evening edition is called, is included in all of the media company's digital packages, and the purpose of the new evening edition is to prompt more readers to use its digital products.

More than 10,000 subscribers read the first issue, a figure that pleases the media company immensely:

"This is more than we've ever signed up before. We're very pleased that so many subscribers have registered digitally," says digital director Fredrik Nars of KSF Media.

"32 percent of Hbl's subscribers have already registered, and that number is rising," says Nars.

According to editor-in-chief Jens Berg, Hbl Kväll is satisfying a demand among readers.

"Hbl has become the first Nordic newspaper to come out twice daily, and this is the result of intensive tests of our readership. Hbl Kväll is hardly the solution to all of the industry's problems, but it does meet a need that many of our current and potential readers have made explicit," Berg explains.

5. New digital advertising options

New advertising formats used in newspaper apps for smartphones and tablets are seeing a surge in growth in 2014. Ads that resemble full-page spreads – but which have interactive functionality – are one of the most popular formats among media companies.

One of northern Germany's largest media companies, sh:z das medienhaus, has found that new digital advertising products are increasingly in demand among advertisers.

Interstitials, or full-page, often interactive and clickable ads that are inserted between the pages of a digital newspaper's smartphone or tablet version, are particularly popular among advertisers.

"Some days we're forced to turn advertisers away because we've decided to limit output to three interstitials on any one day," says assistant digital manager Svenja Degner of sh:z. 

The Finnish daily HBL has also been successful in selling interstitials in the digital version of the newspaper.

"Some months, interstitials beat web banner sales," says digital director Fredrik Nars of KSF Media.

"We can see that interstitials lead to greater involvement: they receive a lot more hits, and they garner much more attention than web banners. Interstitials are generating new business for us," Nars explains.

6. Newspaper archives generate traffic and sales

Newspaper archives are one of the digital areas in which readers have not become accustomed to obtaining free content. Experience has shown that search access to newspaper archive content is a feature that readers will gladly pay for, just as the availability of such an option serves to retain current subscribers and attract new ones.

In Norway, Aftenposten was one of the first newspapers to offer its readers a searchable, digital archive. Some 1.7 million pages spanning the publication's 154-year history can now be searched through on computers, smartphones and tablets.

At the launch of the service the number of visitors to the paper's homepage tripled, and archive activity remains high to this day.

"It's a product that we're regularly consider with respect to our digital strategy; there's no doubt that it strengthens our digital initiatives", comments Stig Breyholtz, head of digital operations for Aftenposten's reader market. 

7. Big data enables fact-based decision making

As consumers continue to turn to digital platforms, media companies gain new possibilities for tracking readers' activity, habits and preferences, which in turn creates new opportunities for converting data into knowledge that can be used to make decisions. And better than ever before, media companies can now provide both advertisers and journalists with documentation based on hard data.

"Knowledge of user behaviour provides a better basis for making decisions for future digital strategies," says Nicolas Fromm, digital director of sh:z das medienhaus, which publishes a number of newspapers in northern Germany, and which has implemented new methods to obtain knowledge of readers' behaviour on digital platforms.

The media company has set a number of performance metrics that can show its employees how and where a newspaper is read in real time. These metrics can inform editorial strategies and influence advertising and newspaper sales in connection with documenting effect, user behaviour and user preferences.

Examples of business intelligence for digital newspapers data that can be shown in real time:

  • Number of times a publication has been downloaded (compared with for instance the same time the week before and anonymised index figures from comparable media houses)
  • Which articles are being read
  • Which ads are being seen and clicked on throughout the day
  • Readers' geographic locations
  • Which platforms readers are using


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Kenneth Boll


Kenneth Boll

Kenneth Boll is the CEO of Visiolink. Holds a Master, Economics and Business Administration, Finance from Aarhus School of Business.