COVID-19 shutdown can’t stop coverage of annual Swedish celebration

By Jens Pettersson

Upsala Nya Tidning/NTM

Uppsala, Sweden

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Champagne breakfasts in the student blocks. River rafting with more than 100 homemade vehicles on the river Fyrisån through the city center. Sillunch (traditional lunch with herring and homeseasoned snaps and annual contests in snaps-songs). Champagnegalopp, with students and former students waving their student cap in the air welcoming spring, then running down the streets like frisky calves to fraternity house gardens to dance and drink all day long.

When the night closes in in the late evening, student choirs perform public concerts below the castle of Uppsala.  

Does it sound like a crazy fairy tale?

All of this is actually completely normal on April 30 in Uppsala, Sweden. But this year, because of COVID-19, none of it was going to be reality. All official events were cancelled due to the mission to stop the spread of the virus.

Usually Upsala Nya Tidnings newsroom has a busy day and night reporting all of these events. So when the decision to cancel was made public, we started to discuss what to do.

UNT put together a special broadcast to replace the popular annual Valborg event.
UNT put together a special broadcast to replace the popular annual Valborg event.

We decided to put together a broadcasting programme for Hemmavalborg (Home-valborg) consisting of all the different traditional parts. We also added some slow TV, consisting of broadcasts from the places that usually are filled with people. Everything was broadcast on our Web site and app at the same time they would normally happen, so everyone could take part in it from home:

  • 10 a.m.: Forsränning — a rerun of last year’s river rafting, with highlights of all the worst capsizes. 
  • 12 p.m.: Sillunch — a new special edition TV recording of the famous herring-lunch, which normally takes place at the city’s concert house and attracts about 600 guests. It included well-known speakers celebrating spring in magnificent speaches and revealing the winner of the traditional snaps song contest arranged by Upsala Nya Tidning, which yearly attracts over 60 new written songs handed in by local talents. All that was missing was the audience.
  • 3 p.m.: Mösspåtagning/champagnegalopp — a rerun of last year’s waving of student caps and running down the city center celebrating spring.
  • 9 p.m.: Live TV broadcast of the concert of the choir Allmänna sången, this time taking place behind closed doors in the university assembly hall without an audicence.

Usually Valborg is the year’s biggest day when it comes to engagement of visitors on our Web site, unt.se. Viewers spend a lot of time on watching live video and follow our live reporting. This year we didn't know what to expect, but it turned out fine.

The event was heavily advertised and attracted a large audience.
The event was heavily advertised and attracted a large audience.

Compared to a normal day in the newsroom, we managed to get:

  • Seven times as many new subscribers during this one day.
  • Six times higher results for watching video.
  • Double the number of page views from subscribers during this day.
  • Compared to the coverage from last year’s Valborg-day, we had 40% more pageviews from subscribers and 25% more active subscribers.

Considering Valborg was cancelled this year, we are very happy to have been able to create this much business value while at the same time bringing some happiness to the people of Uppsala. And all of this in a COVID-19 safe way!

About Jens Pettersson

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