Svenska Dagbladet learns subscription, retention lessons from hit podcast

By Robert Okpu

Stockholm, Sweden


According to the European innovation scoreboard, Sweden is ranked No. 1 in the EU, Anna Careborg, CEO of Svenska Dagbladet, reminds us. As INMA crawls through the newsrooms of Stockholm and dives into the subject of digital subscriptions here all week, we wanted to get the perspective of two of its media leaders (we spoke to Josefina Rickardt, chief marketing officer and head of consumer revenues at Expressen as well). Here are Careborg’s on a recent hit podcast and . 

In Stockholm, there are quite a lot of companies working with digital innovation. Competition for talent can be fierce. This is, of course, a challenge for Schibsted, one of Scandinavia’s major media brands and a main competitor to the Bonnier media family in Sweden (both of which INMA visited this week during our Media Subscriptions Summit study tour).

“It is inspiring and means that there are a lot of people with great skills, but it also means that the competition is hard when it comes to recruiting them,” Careborg said. “Being a part of Schibsted, with a strong tech profile, really helps when we compete for talents with companies like Spotify and Klarna.” 

Careborg is a former reporter with the Swedish tabloids Aftonbladet (owned by Schibsted) and Expressen (owned by competitor Bonnier). In 2004, she was recruited to the quality morning newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. Eleven years later, she was made head of SvD Premium, the digital subscription service, and she became its editor-in-chief and CEO in 2019.

SvD's hit podcast, The Dynasty, is a lesson in what content people will pay for.
SvD's hit podcast, The Dynasty, is a lesson in what content people will pay for.

INMA: Anna, SvD’s February podcast series The Dynasty about the Swedish business family Stenbeck was a major success and made many listeners register for SvD Premium. How do you plan to prevent them from churning out now? 

Careborg: Well, the short answer is: With our journalism, we have to make sure that our new subscribers discover not only our podcasts but all of what we do.   

The longer answer: We have a cross-functional team at SvD that works with different activities to prevent them from churning. We also have a new podcast, which will be released in a couple of weeks. We have a tremendous team dedicated to podcasts and they really deliver, working with reporters across SvD. The team is a consequence of our strategy: to better understand how our target group wants to consume our journalism. And many of them prefer podcasts, so we have to deliver our very best journalism in this channel too.    

INMA: You have concluded that The Dynasty is the most successful publication ever for SvD. What are the most insightful learnings for the future?

Careborg: We are still learning a lot, as we speak. There is no question that people are willing to subscribe and pay for podcasts, and that is in line with our strategy. In the podcast world, the competition is fierce, so we are delighted to see that high-quality journalism — in combination with high-quality production — seems to be appreciated. It strengthens our belief in the power of journalism compared to other types of content.

At SvD, we have learned a lot from a “podcast first”-strategy, working with articles leading to the podcast. We have also realised that there are some obvious differences between podcasts and written stories. For example, the peak of interest for The Dynasty was not immediately but two weeks after the launch.      

INMA: Schibsted, the owner of Svenska Dagbladet, has launched Superpaketet, which in English means “The Super Package.” This includes digital content from SvD, your sister newspaper Aftonbladet, the news aggregator Omni, as well as exclusive podcasts from PodMe. What knowledge have you gained from the similar content offering from Schibsted’s newspapers in Norway?

Careborg: Our experience from Norway tells us that this type of solution, with broad access to our brands, provides increased loyalty and reduced churn. We can see that when people get so much quality journalism in one subscription, they are more engaged in each product. And that increases their willingness to stay. We hope, and think, that it will be the same in Sweden.

INMA: The price is SEK299 per month, which is about €25. Why have you chosen a price one-third more expensive than your rival Bonnier News in Sweden? 

Careborg: We believe that the two bundles are addressing different market segments and user needs. In the case of Bonnier’s offering, the access to local news brands is a strong component topped up with two national news outlets. In the core of our bundle is our strong national news brand — Aftonbladet, Svenska Dagbladet, and Omni — and to that we have added a unique selling point including our premium pod brand PodMe.

In addition we strive, by establishing reasonable price points at the market, to create the best long-term conditions for digital sustainable business within news. The core of our strategy is that there is a willingness to pay for qualitative journalism. 

INMA: And to round off, how well is Scandinavia doing would you say, regarding media subscriptions specifically? 

Scandinavia is a good place to be when it comes to news media subscriptions. We have a long history of subscribed newspapers, and we can see a high willingness to pay for digital subscriptions. But of course we have challenges. One of them is the “news outsiders” — people who are not consuming news — and Schibsted has an inititative called IN/LAB in order to find out more about them and try new approaches to reach them.

The INMA Media Subscriptions Summit is March 6-10. Details can be found here

About Robert Okpu

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