“We’ve got to work as if print didn’t exist”: Writer insights from Bonnier Information | What’s New in Publishing

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Sweden is among the many nations most keen to pay for on-line content material.  Based on DNR 202130% of Swedes have paid for digital content material at the least as soon as of their lifetime. On the identical time, throughout the final decade, the income of the newspaper trade has been steadily reducing within the nation. Given the hit print and promoting revenues have taken throughout these years, Swedish publishers have needed to discover options to regulate to a brand new, digital actuality. 

Bonnier Information, the most important media home in Sweden, determined in 2015-2016 to make reader income its main supply of revenue by constructing digital loyalty, creating advanced digital paywall options, and growing investments in digital high quality. 

The important thing to Bonnier Information’ success has been observing and analyzing readers’ habits, taking a look at how the viewers accesses totally different content material and reacting accordingly whereas making an attempt to transform readers into subscribers. 

Within the phrases of Editorial Growth Director, Martin Jönsson: “We’ve got to work as if print didn’t exist.” Of the previous 25 years, final yr was essentially the most financially useful for Bonnier Information, which allowed it to develop the newsroom funds by 30%. Now, one other formidable aim is ready: doubling the reader revenues throughout the subsequent 3 years. 

The Repair talked to Jönsson about how Bonnier Information leverages digital transformation and the way it plans to develop sooner or later. 

The interview has been edited and condensed for readability.

The Repair:  When and why did you determine that you just needed to focus extra on reader revenues and switch them into main sources of revenue? 

Martin Jönsson: I’ll say that for Dagens Nyhetr [Editor’s note: Sweden’s biggest daily Dagens Nyhetr belongs to the Bonnier Group] which is the main high quality newspaper in Sweden, the choice was made in 2015 as a result of growth we witnessed on the worldwide advert market. It was clear that way more advert spending went to Google and Fb. On the identical time, we noticed nice alternatives for reader revenues.  We already had a robust place in reader income within the print period. However we realized we needed to focus way more on establishing higher digital merchandise, smarter paywall options, and work way more effectively with the advertising and the transaction facet of the enterprise. Twenty years in the past, 80% of our income was pushed from adverts, whereas at present 77% of our income at Dagens Nyhetr derives from reader income (and digital reader income is crucial a part of that).  It has been a really fast journey for the previous six-seven years.  In the course of the course of this era, print circulation decreased by 50% however the digital development was fast. For the whole thing of Bonnier Information, a call to shift the main target onto reader revenues was made three years in the past. Our goal now’s to double digital reader income and earnings within the subsequent three years.

Subscription share of Bonnier Information as of June 2021. Courtesy of Bonnier Information

TF: That’s a really formidable aim. Are digital subscriptions the principle device for monetizing readers, or have you ever additionally experimented with crowdfunding, membership, or possibly even micropayments? 

MJ: Proper now, it’s simply subscriptions, however we will certainly look into micropayments and see whether or not there are alternatives on this regard. As for crowdfunding, Sweden isn’t a market the place there’s a robust custom of it. It’s not like in lots of nations the place you’ve gotten donations for journalism. However, we’ve a really robust subscription historical past in Sweden, each for print and digital media. Now, Sweden has one of many highest penetrations available in the market for each streaming providers, music streaming, video streaming, and information providers. All in all, it’s a market the place the subscription fashions are very robust.

TF: Readers’ willingness to pay could be very excessive in Sweden however I wish to ask the way you managed to construct such a excessive stage of reader loyalty.

MJ:  You talked about the phrase loyalty. It has been crucial phrase for us. What we needed to do was to ensure we might optimize the publication and principally, make it a greater digital product. What I’ve been saying for the previous six years is that we’ve to work as if print didn’t exist. We do have a print newspaper however we’ve to give attention to the digital publication and make that our primary focus. That was step one principally to creating a product value paying for. Then the following step was to attempt to develop the subscriber base by campaigning neatly and introducing free trials and different affords to individuals. To a big extent, we needed to change audiences as we needed to go from a slightly previous print reader subscription base to youthful readers, not simply based mostly in Stockholm, however in all the nation. Immediately, we’ve an viewers that’s a lot youthful. 

We needed to begin with the standard with a view to construct loyalty. Our focus for the subscription enterprise was, for the primary yr, simply to develop. Then we targeting taking a look at retention, getting down churn charges and growing engagement. Afterwards, we seemed on the lifetime worth of the subscription. However I might say the core of what we do is to give attention to reader loyalty. We do all the pieces we will to strengthen the model and get individuals to learn us. We glance very a lot into metrics that assist us determine whether or not we’re profitable in that technique.

TF: Are industrial and editorial departments separated or actively interacting and cooperating with one another?  

MJ: We’re very a lot built-in and work cross-functionally. It’s the accountability of the newsroom to develop subscriptions.  We set targets for every division within the newsroom, what number of new subscribers they need to acquire every day, every week, and so forth. We have a tendency to provide a mandate to the editors to be sure that we publish in a means that we’ll proceed to develop subscribers. Typically after I get guests from overseas, they ask how we handle to focus a lot on gaining new subscribers. My reply at all times is that it’s crucial for us to develop to outlive. For that, individuals want to love our content material and keep subscribed. If we don’t obtain that, it’s no use doing what we do. We’ve got tried to construct a tradition throughout the newsroom the place that is very pure to individuals. We’ve got additionally invested rather a lot in our journalism. Final yr, as an illustration, which was financially our greatest for 25 years, we grew our newsroom funds by 30%. We hold hiring reporters, we’ve opened new regional workplaces in 4 cities in Sweden over the previous few years. We began a brand new newsroom division specializing in science and local weather disaster final yr. By investing in rising the newsroom we make it attainable for us to continue to grow and discover new readers. It’s apparent to everybody – each readers and the newsroom – that specializing in digital subscriptions has helped us to maintain investing, and likewise to change into much less depending on adverts. In the course of the pandemic, when ad-dependent newspapers had been hit strongly, we weren’t so hit. As an alternative, we grew in subscriptions. It was a superb interval for us. But when we had been nonetheless ad-dependent, it might have been very troublesome.

TF: How did the pandemic influence print? What a part of your revenues comes from the print now?  How are dynamics on this regard?

MJ: The circulation of print remains to be reducing by round 8-9% a yr. Advert income from print decreased by about 20% in the course of the first pandemic yr. It was throughout final yr that it regained some power. Although we’ve massive advert revenues, it’s additionally very pricey by way of manufacturing, particularly now when the costs of print paper are growing quickly. High quality print paper can also be exhausting to seek out. So, although print remains to be vital for us, it’s apparent that it’s not what we will base the long run on.

Information as of June 2021. Picture Courtesy of Bonnier Information

TF: What sort of paywalls have you ever built-in?

MJ: We’ve got a combined system of paywalls. We’ve got a metered mannequin that’s not crucial in conversions. We’ve got a premium mannequin with only a few articles, maybe two every day, that are principally designed to drive new conversions. Then we’ve a dynamic mannequin, which is predicated on how an article performs for the primary three or 4 hours. We have a look at totally different indicators of direct site visitors and exterior site visitors after which we put it behind the paywall after three to 4 hours to be sure that it’s going to convert new readers in order that we will get new individuals into the funnel. First, will probably be out there without spending a dime, so it may be shared extensively on social media. However lastly, will probably be put behind the paywall as properly. This represents maybe 70% of all our conversions. Typically 80% of the tales are open, so it’s nonetheless out there to new readers. However the best-performing articles will probably be behind a paywall after a number of hours.

TF: How do you determine which content material ought to go behind the paywall and which ought to be out there without spending a dime? As I do know, most of your readers usually are not paying readers but, proper? 

MJ: We normally have about 2.1 million distinctive guests weekly and of these, about 270,000 are paying subscribers. The vast majority of our viewers usually are not paying readers. We by no means put common information content material behind a paywall. If it’s one thing that’s out there in every single place, there’s no must paywall that. It’s the unique journalism, it’s our storytelling. It’s our investigative tales that we put behind a paywall. 

If an article doesn’t carry out properly, we would open it once more to say, okay, it’s higher to succeed in new readers with this. In the course of the pandemic and through, as an illustration, the elections in Sweden, we regularly open up the web site to new clients for 3 months to get them extra acquainted with the newspaper, after which we are going to shut down that supply and provides them a risk to take a subscription as an alternative. We attempt to do many alternative issues with a view to first get individuals actually within the product and to get used to it after which to transform them into paying clients. 

An important factor is to have the type of high quality that raises individuals’s curiosity, will get them to start out studying, after which steadily convert them. Paywalling all of the content material will simply scare them away. Introductory affords, free trials have been proved profitable for us. 

TF: And the way precisely do you measure site visitors? Or how do you get into the minds of the readers? Which instruments and metrics do you give attention to? 

MJ: We put a variety of effort into measuring and analyzing site visitors. Totally different metrics are used relying on the key technique of the newsroom of the newspaper. Among the primary metrics are the typical studying time of the story, the frequency, how typically they return. We additionally have a look at the variety of energetic days. Specifically, we take note of what number of days every month customers are logged in, with a view to be sure that we proceed to construct that loyalty and that behavior in a great way. We aren’t merely specializing in distinctive guests and pageviews – the principle metrics we take note of are way more quality-based.  It’s not that we’re solely specializing in distinctive guests and web page views however the principle metrics we take note of are way more quality-based. 

We additionally look into totally different matters to see how they’re performing. If we observe a giant curiosity in a selected matter from our readers, we understand we must always do extra on that story. We’re analyzing the matters on a day-to-day foundation to see what’s performing properly.  With the change of our viewers, totally different matters have attracted the next curiosity. For example, science, and local weather disaster are way more in style now. 

We additionally attempt to be sure that we’ve what I name evergreen content material. What really builds the loyalty is content material that’s not essentially associated to present information however extra knowledge-based, fact-based, deep evaluation. We attempt to be sure that we, within the presentation of the web site, have the right combination between the information and the evergreen content material. 

TF. How does Bonnier Information handle so many information organizations in unity when every has a distinct agenda and editorial coverage? How do you create one widespread infrastructure for them?

MJ: We be sure that it’s attainable to have totally different methods and insurance policies. After we discuss infrastructure it’s extra outdoors the newsroom. This implies it’s primarily specializing in having the backend of the enterprise, the advert gross sales, the expertise, the analytics, to work with creating widespread editorial techniques, and so forth. We simply created a standard reader income group, the place we’ve a mixture of central and native management in order that particular person newspapers would possibly nonetheless have their very own group, however they’re additionally half of a big group. This permits them to scale finest practices, be taught from one another, develop the most effective enterprise fashions, the most effective fee options, or the most effective communication funnels with new clients. We attempt to make the infrastructure shared however the choices are very a lot decentralized. Every newspaper has various independence within the closing doings. But when there’s a risk to share a system or a means of working, we do this. We attempt to work seamlessly on the backend facet of issues and to be sure that we use the assets as effectively as attainable. 

TF: I see. Nonetheless, I think about conflicts of curiosity can come up and I’m curious how Bonnier Information tackles them.

MJ: Sure, that occurs each day. For example, there are conflicts of curiosity between newsrooms and promoting departments, the place the newsroom doesn’t need any bothering adverts, and so forth. There are conflicts between tech and newsrooms. There have at all times been these conflicts. However given the worldwide media state of affairs, everybody understands that we’ve to work very effectively with a view to survive, have a robust and shared construction and to have the ability to put money into journalism. I feel that there’s good floor for compromise. What we’re saying is that journalism is our primary focus. So, if we’re going to make it attainable to give attention to journalism, we’ve to share the remaining, we’ve to work collectively on all the pieces else. 

It’s a structural change that we’re witnessing in information media everywhere in the world. It’s exhausting to be a standalone newspaper, it’s exhausting to be a small actor. If you’re half of a bigger group, you’ll have higher potentialities to develop and develop. However editorial independence is what issues essentially the most. 

TF: One final thing that I wished to say: I keep in mind you saying that, by way of the transformation, you principally began to do all the pieces otherwise from what you’d do within the previous age of print. What had been this stuff that you just began to vary fully?

MJ: One factor was to grasp our readers, as a result of, within the previous age of print legacy, we didn’t know very a lot about our readers’ pursuits. We would have liked to investigate that higher. One other factor was to grasp the conduct of our readers, as an illustration, once they need to learn a narrative, once they have time to learn it, after we ought to publish it, and so forth. Print is a really unhealthy means of deciding the right way to publish tales as a result of it relies on so many different components within the distribution. 

We needed to rethink very a lot about the right way to publish, and likewise all the planning course of. Digital journalism takes extra time to plan than print. Communication and teamwork within the newsroom are totally different within the digital age. Extra persons are concerned in producing a narrative. 

By altering the method, after we begin a big story, we do it collectively – everyone seems to be concerned within the story from the start. So individuals perceive that that is the method of 10 to twenty individuals concerned within the story as an alternative of 1 author. So it’s an enormous cultural change that introduces new instruments to individuals together with ones on fact-checking, content material verification, manufacturing of user-generated content material and so forth. 

We’ve got really finished all the pieces otherwise up to now six years. It’s an ongoing course of to get individuals to grasp that change is the brand new regular and is nothing to be afraid of. It’s what really will assist us survive.

Teona Sekhniashvili

This piece was initially revealed in The Repair and is re-published with permission.



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