Upsala Nya Tidning (UNT) is a regional newspaper in Uppsala, the fourth largest city in Sweden. One of our biggest challenges in recent years has been maintaining our importance to the people of Uppsala, despite the fact that the competition over the readers’ time and interest has increased tremendously.
Every day we work really hard to be important for our community. Part of that work is to find the areas truly relevant to our readers and figure out ways we can make a difference with our journalism.
With our Facebook group UNT pendlingskollen (which translates to “commuter check-up”) we have created a journalistic ecosystem around commuters’ daily lives and challenges. Created in December 2017, the group now has more than 1,100 members, and membership is increasing every day.
This group was established when we realised the commuters of Uppsala — approximately 15,000 of the 200,000 total citizens — were having a difficult time getting back and forth to work in Stockholm. Their tough experiences didn’t match with the official picture given by the statistics of punctuality from the railway companies.
At the same time, we realised Facebook had changed its algorithm. As a result, we experienced declining organic reach for our official Facebook page. We realised Facebook encouraged the use of groups, giving them better reach.
So we began to consider how we might utilise groups and find subjects around which we could build the groups. The concerns of commuters seemed like a great match so we gave it a try — with great success thus far.
The UNT Pendlingskollen Facebook group enables us to:
- Listen to commuters’ experiences in real time.
- Have direct contact with individuals and bring their concerns and questions to those in charge, therefore creating good journalism.
- Post our related articles back to the Facebook group of readers with a hardcore interest in the subject matter. This goes a step beyond being “super local” geographically; we also become “super close” to the readers’ daily concerns.
The group has provided us with “insider information” in real time. Rather than putting a reporter on a train every day, we are able to just take a look at the Facebook group to see reports about delays and overcrowded rail cars.
We have uncovered stories quickly that might normally get discovered hours or days laters (or never). Instead we get them directly from commuters, and we encourage readers to engage with us. When a train was actually going the wrong way, transporting people backwards to a city very far from Uppsala, the group members that told us about that became the winners of our newsroom “monthly tipster” contest.
All of this brought attention to the commuter issues in debate articles and calls for hearings. One month after we started the group, more than 20 articles later, the commuters’ problems were being attended to by politicians. The vice president of the train company SJ also announced the company would increase the number of rail cars, with an increase in seats by 400 on each Uppsala-Stockholm train during peak commuting hours.
The creation of UNT Pendlingskollen has given us the chance to become a natural part of our readers’ daily lives, fulfilling their needs, and, in the long run, strengthening the brand — all while creating engaged and devoted readers who feel that we are on their side.
The best part of it, besides increasing traffic from Facebook to www.unt.se and gaining many new paying subscribers, is that we now actually have managed to create a small but real ecosystem consisting of devoted readers, built around us and our journalism.