In an industry with razor thin margins and routine financial losses, Norway’s Amedia has enjoyed record gains in the last five years.
Pål Nedregotten, executive vice president at Amedia, attributes the company’s success to the smart use of data. Nedregotten spoke before a sold-out crowd at INMA’s Media Innovation Week, sponsored by ArcXP, FT Strategies, Google News Initiative, Meta, and Piano, in Copenhagen last week. It was the first live event INMA has held since COVID began.
From data to dollars
Amedia is the largest publisher of local news in Norway, with more than 100 newspapers and 723,000 subscribers. It has a daily readership of roughly two million, which is nearly half the adult population of Norway.
The company has been financially healthy since 2017 and in 2021 had net profits of $62 million. Amedia increased digital ad revenue by 26.5% 2021.
“Amedia’s success would not have been — and will not be — possible without the smart use of data,” Nedregotten said.
Kill data silos
Amedia’s data strategy is business-model agnostic. By this, Nedregotten explained, their aim is to remove any data silos from individual departments and make the data accessible to all. So the subscriptions team has access to the same data as the advertising team, which has access to the same data as the editorial team, and so on.
“Data is applicable to and equally useful to all,” Nedregotten said. “That has been a very important guiding principle for us.”
He described the strategy as a feedback loop, with Amedia’s reader database at its core. Surrounding the loop are other layers — including security, legal, and ethical frameworks — that apply to all steps in the loop.
Get them to log in
For Amedia, as with most online publishers, a primary goal is getting readers to log in and attribute them to a specific user ID. This allows Amedia to control the customer journey and allows them to capture valuable data.
“Data capture is critical in a modern media company,” Nedregotten said. “It forms the basis of effective business development in journalism, subscriptions, and advertising.”
Mobile offers stable identifier and troves of data
Amedia’s log-in solution, called aID, uses mobile phone numbers as unique identifiers for their users. This is because, unlike e-mail — which may change over time as people switch jobs — mobile phone numbers tend to remain constant in Norway.
The company has, on average, 120 data points for each user, which includes demographic data such as age, gender, phase of life, address, income range, number of children, and free time interests.
Personal data is highly regulated in Norway, according to Nedregotten, so the company models much of the data and uses live data when permissible.
Increased reach and deeper journalism
One of the main reasons Amedia puts so much emphasis on collecting and classifying data is so it can increase the reach and depth of their journalism.
Once data is captured, users’ reading habits are classified into demographic and geographic profiles. This enables sophisticated analyses of how content performs and gives insight into how readers consume the content.
Dashboards with this information are shared with editorial teams and individual journalists, who use it to create content that is more relevant to specific user segments. This in turn leads to more satisfied readers, which leads to more subscribers and greater ad revenue.
Results speak for themselves
In general, according to Nedregotten, the organisation has experienced significant increases in sales and has reduced churn.
One specific example he gave was Sogn Avis, a local newspaper recently acquired by Amedia. The newspaper implemented a data-based digital strategy in 2020 and gained 1200 new subscribers in 18 months.
“It’s all about getting people into our universe, getting data on them, and building trust and engagement,” Nedregotten said. “Data is our superpower.”