Fædrelandsvennen launches paywall, learning from hits — and misses — of change

In May of 2012, Fædrelandsvennen launched a new business model. Speaking at the INMA European Conference in Berlin, News Editor Christian Stavik reported his newspaper now has 75% coverage in its core market, which is the entire country of Finland. 

The biggest risk was doing nothing within the changing environment, Stavik says, when the downturn in readership was generating substantial revenue loss.

The company had an idea to go from being a newspaper to selling a brand, wanting readers to engage with its content on all platforms.

The main goal of the new strategy was to provide an added value for existing subscribers, Stavik said. As such, a new editorial strategy and payment model was needed.

Fædrelandsvennen needed to change its entire organisation.

The strategy became one packet, one price. Readers subscribe to the brand, not to the platform. The company did not allow a subscriber to pick just one platform, such as the printed newspaper, for instance. The only option was to buy the full bundle.

Before the launch of paywall, thanks to its digital-first strategy, the company was seeing +34% growth in pageviews. The introduction of paywall did generate a loss, but not a huge one: 17% of reach. Currently, however, traffic is starting to grow again (+12% since May 2012), according to Stavik.

The subscription trend has also turned after the introduction of the paywall. The news media company started with a loss of five subscribers a day and a gain of four new subscribers every day. It is now the other way around, Stavik said.

Fædrelandsvennen created a big campaign to explain the readers why digital journalism costs money, proving that quality journalism on digital platforms is as expensive as in print. In addition, internal communication was key in the transformation.

On the other hand, the company’s mobile experience was a failure, and it didn’t manage to launch even one successful app. An attempt at a family subscription package was also a failure due to lack of communication.

“The biggest failure was that we should have launched and learned, but we launched and left instead,” Stavik said. 

Further complicating the transition was that tech support was quite limited at the time, which meant several bugs were left unfixed and the company didn’t grab opportunity to track the data.

The next step for Fædrelandsvennen is to evolve the digital strategy and learn from failures. Stavik believes it was a strong start, but the company needs to keep moving and keep developing.

About Marek Miller

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