Sanoma Media shifts print, online ad sales to one multi-channel product

By Matti Mustonen

Sanoma Media Finland

Helsinki, Finland


Print circulation is decreasing and advertising euros follow. Even though digital traction increases steeply, online advertising does not offset print’s decrease.

Sanoma Media’s (and also the Nordics’) largest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (HS) has been a dominant player in the Finnish market for almost 130 years. Even though HS has succeeded in its consumer strategy (new online subscriptions now more than offset decrease in print subscriptions), we had been struggling to monetise increasing total audience in terms of advertising sales.

In addition to excellent reach, HS offers an efficient platform for advertisers in other attributes as well: Readers represent high-income segments, they are very committed to the product, and content is definitely the best in the market.

Then what had changed if the audience was still there?

Answer: the value proposition for advertiser.

Earlier (for the first 110 years or so) ad selling and buying in HS was simple: customer buys an ad in the newspaper and there it is for the whole audience to see it.

Sanoma Media now packages ads into one cross-platform solution to boost ad sales, simplify the buying process, and give advertisers better reach.
Sanoma Media now packages ads into one cross-platform solution to boost ad sales, simplify the buying process, and give advertisers better reach.

Selling and buying became much more complicated when an increasing share of readers started to consume content through desktops, tablets, and smartphones. We shifted from selling total HS audience to selling different platforms.

At that point in time, our mistake was not selling visibility to reach all readers together. Instead, we tried to offer, for instance, desktop reach in addition to print. Advertisers were offered complicated packages they (and we) did not understand properly.

This did not work well.

In 2014, we started thinking differently. We launched a new front-page product where customers could easily upgrade their print-only front page ad to a multi-channel solution that showed the ad to all HS readers, no matter what channel or device they used.

By 2017, basically all front-page advertisers bought the multi-channel solution, and we decided to go full-steam ahead with our multi-channel product. This year we launched hard-bundled, multi-channel full pages, which include:

  • All front-page ads are always shown on print, mobile, desktop, and tablet.
  • Reach is increased by 18% compared to print-only full page.
  • Two ad materials: one for print + tablet and the other for mobile + desktop.

This value proposal worked better than the failed early “platform proposal” because the product reaches the total audience, not just parts or segments of it. At the end of the day, that is what news media advertisers expect when their target is to reach masses effectively in one day. If they want to reach smaller (micro) segments of the audience, there are numerous ways to do that in a digital-only environment.

So here we are, selling the total audience — just like we did it for the first 110 years. Simple, effective, and easy to buy. Results have been excellent.

About Matti Mustonen

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