Like the old Egyptians, we at Svenska Dagbladet believe pyramids are stable constructions. The pyramids were hard to build, but putting together a successful strategy for survival in the rapidly changing media market is even harder.

The pyramid is built upon four cornerstones:

  • Business model.
  • Customer needs.
  • Brand values.
  • Brand positioning.

At the bottom of the Svenska Dagbladet pyramid is a recruitment base, where we have the opportunity to win readers’ loyalty and engagement.

If we present creative, premium, in-depth journalism; innovative digital advertising solutions; interesting brand-stretching offers; and other prerequisites, the readers’ willingness to pay for content and move their way up to the top of the pyramid will increase. And it has.

Total online revenue and earnings have been on the rise since 2013, due to implementation of the “pyramid model.”
Total online revenue and earnings have been on the rise since 2013, due to implementation of the “pyramid model.”

By building on this foundation, we have increased the number of digital subscribers by 90% from one year to the next, thanks to our smart paywall and our acclaimed digital storytelling that has made readers willing to pay for our journalism and ads.

Cornerstone 1: Business model

We succeeded in implementing the cliché “digital first” in the newsroom and the sales departments. We went from being a print newspaper making a Web site, to a digital organisation that also produces a print newspaper. 

In the past few years, Svenska Dagbladet has shifted its strategy to become a “digital first” organisation that also produces a print newspaper.
In the past few years, Svenska Dagbladet has shifted its strategy to become a “digital first” organisation that also produces a print newspaper.

During 2015, we increased total online revenue, ads, and circulation 28% and EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortisation) 46% in the middle of the worst newspaper crisis ever.

The pyramid model has helped us to buck the trend. Our traffic figures grew and so did digital revenue. During the vibrant year of 2015, these actually compensated for the decline on the print side. We call that a milestone. Our multi-channel strategy worked.

Year to date, Svenska Dagbladet had a dramatic 90% increase in digital subscribers.
Year to date, Svenska Dagbladet had a dramatic 90% increase in digital subscribers.

Best of all, employees at Svenska Dagbladet have been involved in this success story — in project groups, in workshops, and in creative meetings. Department boundaries have been erased, and new partnerships have been created: Svenska Dagbladet became “One Svenska Dagbladet.”

The fact that the employees understand and embrace the pyramid is one of its main benefits. It unites us and it is easy to use in the daily work. That cannot be said about all business models.

Cornerstone 2: Customer needs

We know so much about our target group when it comes to where they live, their education, and their interests. But we wanted to delve further into their needs. What job do we do for them and why do they read our journalism?

Underlying this success in growing readership and revenue, Svenska Dagbladet has worked to gain a deeper understanding of different readers’ needs.
Underlying this success in growing readership and revenue, Svenska Dagbladet has worked to gain a deeper understanding of different readers’ needs.

We found there were four very clear basic needs in the digital news category:

  • Digital simplicity.
  • Always updated.
  • Surprise me.
  • Intellectual respect.

We also discovered some people want to have everything in a 360-degree understanding from all angles, while others want a qualitative update.

Some use Svenska Dagbladet to tell the world their take on a story, while others use Svenska Dagbladet as a source for a discussion.

This knowledge is extremely useful in our product digital development, and also forms a common user understanding. 

Cornerstones 3 and 4: Brand values and positioning

Every day in Svenska Dagbladets newsroom, the staff repeats this mantra: NPT, NPT, NPT: every News article should have a Premium approach and a Traffic approach.

This hybrid challenge is the pyramid’s control panel: to scale Svenska Dagbladet’s flexible paywall to optimise traffic and to have a feeling for when a story is premium — and when it is not.

None of this would be possible without Svenska Dagbladet’s CRM system and a new editorial-controlled algorithm, one of the most modern publishing systems in Europe.

Embracing changes quickly and staying focused on the four cornerstones has led to a dramatic rise in online revenue.
Embracing changes quickly and staying focused on the four cornerstones has led to a dramatic rise in online revenue.

In these past few years implementing this pyramid model, these are our key learnings:

  • Make major changes fast.
  • Develop a clear and simple customer-focused strategy.
  • Measure and communicate the results.
  • Change the internal culture to be open and inclusive.
  • Make sure the management understands the basics of the tech systems.  
  • Be constantly innovative and dare to make that giant leap.

This approach has increased Svenska Dagbladet’s number of readers from 1.6 million in 2012 to 2.2 million today, and has grown digital revenues (from advertising and circulation) 155% since 2012.