In 2013, few people thought it was possible to make money from digital content. That was the year when the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet started its digital user payment platform.
Six years later, in November 2019, Dagbladet Pluss celebrated 100,000 pure digital subscribers. In the past year, growth has been 47%. Much of the explanation for user growth lies in how Dagbladet Pluss, which is part of the media house Aller in Norway, has succeeded in the collaboration between editorial staff and the teams that work with analysis, sales and marketing, and technology.
Dagbladet is a tabloid newspaper that reaches 28% of the population every single day. Dagbladet’s readers are mainly interested in news, sports, and entertainment. Subscribers to Dagbladet Pluss are also interested in news, sports, and entertainment, but they also want exclusive content from niche areas and “evergreen” content.
Dagbladet Pluss is a freemium model. The front page is heavily loaded with different distribution tasks, which makes the work challenging. The goal is to create a more intelligent front that can separate users with different interests through segmentation.
Aller Media’s development department has devised a personalisation system called Xavier, which offers the right content to the right users. The system also allows us to automatically use the space on the front page where it is most convenient. The latter has allowed the exposure of Dagbladet Pluss articles to far more users than before.
Success through innovation
The Norwegian media has a strong reputation for innovation in content and business models. Norway is the country with the highest willingness to pay for news, so this explains why Norwegian newspapers are growing so fast when it comes to paid content digital.
At Dagbladet Pluss, close cooperation between editorial staff and the teams that work with analysis, sales and marketing, and technology is crucial. Our newspaper has a 151-year selling history. For many decades, this newspaper was sold every day on basis of what was on the front page. We are used to having a sales focus.
And even though selling digital subscriptions is triggered by a different type of content than selling the paper edition, or increasing digital traffic, we have an organisation that is used to focus on the user’s perspective.
It is important that the premium content is something the user does not get elsewhere for free. Dagbladet Pluss must give the user an experience of increased value. The content must be perceived as exclusive, interesting, useful, and valuable for the users. The main sale comes from consumer and niche content, as well as feature and long reads. Content about cars, health, relationships, and private economy are all popular subjects.
Two articles that generated the largest sales were an article about test of skis (this might not work so well outside of Norway) and a large documentary about child welfare in Norway. The second article led to a full examination of the Norwegian child welfare service. It is important that such essential and costly journalism in the future can be financed through user-paid revenue. These two examples of sales winners say a lot about the variation we see in this market.
Working with digital subscription is like aiming at a moving target. Stories that could lead to sales one year might not work as well the next year. We must therefore constantly work on development, and for that reason experimenting and growth hacking is an ongoing process for us.