The Norwegian business newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) has strengthened its subscription offering with a heavily modernised wine search. Changing from free access to subscriber-only, the wine search has become one of the key value propositions in “DN Total,” the most expensive subscription package.
Dagens Næringsliv is Norway’s oldest business news outlet. It has a strong reputation for investigative journalism and a respected weekend offering of high-quality feature and lifestyle journalism.
Throughout 2019 and 2020, DN’s food and wine sub-brand Smak (meaning taste) launched several successful products, creating a so-called content universe around wine journalist Merete Bø. The content universe consisted of a weekly video wine review, a podcast guest-starring comedian Thomas Giertsen (also a sommelier!), written reviews behind paywall, a subscriber-only newsletter, and a wine-tasting Webinar series.
In addition, DN had an almost 10-year-old wine database in need of an upgrade.
Combining open and unique data
For decades, and only for her own and colleagues’ use and comparison, Bø had structured her wine tasting in an Excel sheet with a score, taste note, country, district, producer, etc. In the early 2010s, this sheet was converted into a database, “productified” and launched as an open wine search.
Later, data from the Norwegian wine monopoly Vinmonopolet (hereby called VP), like price and product ID, was added and regularly synced with the database through a rather cumbersome Excel-based process. The wine search had a lot of interesting information, and DN gave it away for free.
Over the years, DN’s strategy has become increasingly more subscription-driven, and insight and interviews with current and potential subscribers convinced us we could transform the old wine search into a key subscription value proposition — if we improved it.
It started with the technical work on modernising the database and the syncing with VP, which had just released a new API. One good thing with state monopolies (Scandinavian ones, at least) is free, structured, and open single-source data. Since the VP also controls sales, the data includes prices, barcodes, product images, availability, etc. As VP is not allowed to score or recommend any of its beverages, combining Bø’s scoring and reviews with VP’s product and sales info gives a unique offering.
New features based on user insight
Important parts of the project were a full redesign and UX upgrade based on user insight and digital user testing (it was hard to meet physically during COVID-19).
This resulted in the development of new functionality such as barcode scanning on both Web and app and introducing a personal area — Min Smak (My Taste) — for users to organise favourites and lists, score wine and write their own notes, and see other readers’ average product score. Min Smak was built as an MVP that later can be extended to allow users to list favourite restaurants and recipes.
The wine review pages also hold an article recommendation module using natural language processing (NLP) technology, serving wine articles picked by an algorithm that scores the articles based on the review’s semantics (wine name, category, producer, country, district, sub-district, grape etc.).
Exclusivity and increased traffic
Despite making a previously free service a part of the most expensive subscription product, comparing the four months leading up to the September 1 launch with the four remaining months of 2021, tells us this:
- Pageviews up 7% from 426,147 to 455,917.
- Visits up 21% from 131,764 to 159,300.
- Unique visitors up 37% from 48,919 to 66,880.
The precise effect on churn and engagement is still pending analytics development, but the subscription department reports a still-growing interest for all food and wine products — and the wine search in particular.
It’s one of the most used exclusive features for “DN Total” subscribers. Several users have upgraded from a “Basic” subscription to “Total” to gain access to the wine search, which now holds over 60,000 wines.