Norwegian Nordsjø Media, with its nine ultra-local newspapers, enjoys more than 60% readership coverage of its distribution area and a close relationship to its readers. In October and November of 2013, the first two of the company’s titles transformed to paid content models of their Web sites.

Results from the readership surveys conducted in February show that subscribers are on board with the changes, praising excellent information communicated to them prior to the change.

Gjesdalbuen and Jærbladet have a readership of 9,000 and 34,000, and the e-mail survey was sent to the subscribers enlisting 700 and 2,250 answers respectively. 

Two impressive statistics stand out after the change:

  • 81% of the subscribers claimed they were logging on to their newspapers’ news sites just as much or more than they did before the transition, with the figures rapidly increasing.
  • The newspapers report 15% growth in advertising revenue and a stable growth in traffic.

“Engaging with the subscriber has been the key to a successful transition,” says Gjesdalbuen’s Editor Eugen Hammer. “Being ultra-local means you know everyone in the community and they know you. There is an element of integrity and trust in the relationship between the local newspaper and its audience that you don’t find in bigger places.

“When you follow them up with a friendly phone call, welcoming them as digital subscribers or even drop by and help them log on to get registered, it brings immediate results.” 

Both newspapers made sure the benefits to the subscriber were well documented ahead of the transition by urging pre-registration to be ready for the changeover to paid content. Presenting local familiar faces in the campaigns with headings such as, “Now I too am a registered digital user of my local newspaper,” made the transition easy.

The message from the newspapers: We want to provide you with more value. This is our gift to you. 

When asked what content in their local newspapers is most important, frequent users answered overwhelmingly that current events, local focus, and sports were what kept them coming back. When asked what would ensure that they would remain digital subscribers in the future, the response was more of the same.

In short, a successful recipe of loyal readers and content that serves the local community’s needs. Not a bad combination for two local newspapers in a digital transition!