The Online Journalism Atlas continues, with Kristine Lowe looking at online journalism in Norway, where some newspapers make more money online than in print. Got any information about your own country’s online journalism? Add it here.
Norway is one of the most newspaper-reading in countries in the world, a fact also reflected in the country’s online media environment. In contrast to many other countries, Norwegians seem to prefer news-driven sites with journalistic content to all others.
Early adoption has put Norwegian online media at a great at advantage, some of the online players even earn good money.
The first traditional Norwegian newspaper to hit the web was Brönnöysundsavis, a regional paper which launched its online edition 6 March 1995, closely followed by Dagbladet, the country’s second biggest tabloid.
Norway’s biggest newspaper, VG, a tabloid, and Aftenposten, the country’s biggest broadsheet, both owned by Norwegian media group Schibsted, also started publishing online in 1995. Schibsted, who own media assets in a number of other European countries, have since garnered international recognition for their successful transition online. Following a favourable mention in the Economist, this transition was even put on the curriculum at Harvard University.
VG is now not only Norway’s most read news site, it is the country’s most visited website overall.
Another early starter was Nettavisen, the country’s first online only newspaper, which saw daylight on 1 November 1996. The founders of this paper later helped start German sister site Netzeitung in 2000.
Ownership structure and profits
Schibsted is the dominant player in Norway’s media landscape. The company owns VG, the most read newspaper both on paper and online, and Aftenposten, the most influential national newspaper. The media group also owns the country’s biggest online market place, Finn.no, Norwegian search engine Sesam Sök and stakes in several of the major regional newspapers. The country’s most read business site, E24, is also a Schibsted product.
To give a clue about the audience the site aims to attract: its Swedish sister site famously advertised for “journalists with expensive habits” in 2007. Innovation is expensive, and many of Schibsted’s most recent ventures, like its European freesheets, are loss-making, but several of its online product are very profitable. Finn.no has had a profit margin around 40 per cent for three consecutive years (2003 – 2006), and VG.no is in a similar position: for 2007, it is expected to deliver a profit margin of 42 – 45 per cent. Schibsted’s newspapers have traditionally been politically conservative.
Dagbladet is the country’s second biggest tabloid. Owned by the Berner group, the liberal newspaper is in the unique position that it has more readers online than in print. Online is also where Dagbladet makes money (the print version is in the red). Dagbladet online recorded a record profit of 26,6 per cent in 2005, but this was reduced to 13 per cent in 2006.
Edda Media is the Norwegian arm of Mecom. The newspaper group consists of a number of regional and local newspapers, with a total of 27 online newspapers, as well as local radio and TV stations (some of which are subsidiaries of the respective local newspapers) and a few specialist online portals. When the company was acquired by the British group in 2006 it had an average profit margin of 7.5 percent.
A-pressen and TV2
A-pressen is another major media group, owned by the Labour Union, Telenor, the country’s partly-privatised phone company, and free speech charity Fritt Ord. The group owns a number of local and regional newspaper, as well as 50 per cent of the country’s biggest commercial TV channel, TV2.
Until recently, A-pressen was not known for being very innovative online, but it is now pressing ahead with a new online venture together with TV2 that has seen the two share more content and launch ‘hyperlocal’ search engine derdubor.no (where you live).
TV2 bought Nettavisen in 2003, and until recently the news site provided almost all of the content for the TV channels website. This is about to change, and under the leadership of TV2’s new CEO, Alf Hildrum, the company will use more resources on developing a website aimed at marketing the TV channel’s programmes.
Norway’s public broadcaster, NRK, has also focused a lot more on its website recently, launching a number of new online portals – such as weather portal yr.no and children’s portal super.no. It is expected that NRK will see substantial traffic increase to its website as it starts opening up more and more of its archive in 2008, enabling users to download archive material for free.
The online team at NRK is also actively marketing NRK’s content in places like YouTube, Facebook and MySpace, and has signed an agreement with Joost to broadcast a separate NRK channel there.
There are currently two other major TV channels in Norway: TVN, owned by German Pro Sieben; and TV3 Norway, owned by Swedish Modern Times Group (MTG), but the websites of both are focused on marketing TV content, not on online journalism.
ABC Startsiden, owned by Telenor, is currently Norway’s third most used website. It comprises Startsiden.no (a catalogue of websites), a search engine and a WAP-service. In March 2007 it launched its own news site, ABC Nyheter. The news site was the first commercial site in Norway to nurture citizen journalism as part of its site. ‘Citizen articles’ is currently a separate section on the site, but articles from this section are sometimes used in the main section of the site, always clearly labelled ‘citizen articles’. The internet company delivered a 65 per cent profit margin in 2006, a margin expected to be marginally down for 2007.
Aller Internett is made up of ten different news sites: some of the oldest, like IT-site digi.no, going all the way back to 1996. Together with TV2 Nettavisen and Norway’s four biggest regional newspapers, it also owns business site NA24 – the second most-read business site after E24.
Other notable Norwegian news outlets are Dagens Naeringsliv and Finansavisen (both financial dailies) Dagsavisen, Klassekampen and Morgenbladet, all newspapers and all with news sites, but none of these have made a huge impact in the online environment.
Blogs, Social Networks and Community
In an egalitarian country such as Norway, it’s perhaps not surprising that the newspapers have left most of the blogging their to readers, rather than encouraging their reporters to venture into the blogosphere.
Dagbladet is a notable exception, its reporters started blogging as early as 2002, but these blogging efforts were more mostly abandoned. Since 2005, Dagbladet and VG have both had blogging platforms where readers are encouraged to set up blogs. These thriving blogging communities are further encouraged by competitions to write ‘blog post of the week’ etc. (MyTelegraph was a latecomer compared to these two online newspaper communities).
Other than that, Aftenposten has set up a blogging site for its foreign correspondents, but there’s not much blogging going on there as of yet. Most of the national newspapers do have something called blogs on their sites, but the content is more akin to traditional op-eds published on a blog platform, and the feeling of reading an op-ed is exacerbated by the fact that many of the online newspapers don’t link out.
VG and Dagbladet also have their own social networks, Nettby and Blink, both launched in 2006. The former is the second largest social network in Norway, with 606,000 registered users.
Outside of mainstream media, Norway does have a thriving blogging scene, though in contrast to England, we haven’t seen blogs setting the political agenda in any major way. Norwegian blogs tend to be more diary-like, often almost literary in form.
Among more co-ordinated non-mainstream online media sites, INorden, the Scandinavian citizen journalism site written by bloggers, and Sonitus, a ‘human blog aggregator’ – a site made possible by dedicated individuals who continuously sift through Norwegian blogs to pull out the best blog posts – also deserve to be mentioned.
Traditionally, the journalism schools at Volda and in Oslo have been the two main institutions training journalists: the former used to educate the broadcast journalists, the latter the print journalists. With the new focus on multimedia journalism, this is now changing and both schools strive to incorporate more training in online journalism.
There are also a number of other journalism schools in the country, including a course whose graduates are currently in so much in demand that many are recruited before they graduate: a BA in business journalism at business school, BI.
Kristine Lowe is a journalist and blogger who writes for a number of Norwegian, British and American clients. Of the organisations mentioned here, Kristine has worked for NRK, Dagens Naeringsliv, NA24 and ABC Nyheter in recent times. She is also a regular contributor to Ethical Space: the international journal for communication ethics.