VK shares the secrets to attracting — and keeping — young audiences

By Marie Albinsson

VK Media

Umeå, Västerbotten, Sweden


As long as I have been in the news business (in fact, since the last century!) media companies have struggled to reach younger audiences. Maybe now is the time to succeed. We now have the tools.

Data gives us the opportunity to analyse user behaviour in a way like never before. So now we can, if we want to, adapt and start to create content that truly resonates with the needs and interests of younger people. 

At Västerbottens-Kuriren, we decided to get a real grip on the reading habits of our younger subscribers and take on the quest to find the holy grail.  

During the first years of the coronavirus pandemic,  we reached a big chunk of new younger subscribers and we needed a plan for how to get them to stay.

VK took a scientific approach to learn more about a younger audience to attract and retain young subscribers.
VK took a scientific approach to learn more about a younger audience to attract and retain young subscribers.

Creating a new approach

We decided to take a scientific approach to the task. Thanks to our user data, we had great tools to really understand the reading habits between the different target groups. We identified three age groups: 18-25, 26-35, and 36-45 years old. 

A dedicated cross-department team with great minds from editorial, marketing, analytics, sales, and UX worked together with the goal of drilling into the behaviour of the target groups.

We studied their interests, reading habits, what content they preferred, etc. We formulated hypotheses and tested them. We did this work over a longer period of time and started to see some patterns. Although most of them did not come as a surprise, some of them did.

What we learned

To summarise our insights, here are some of the dos and don’ts we learned along the way: 

Do this:

  • Follow and study your younger subscribers carefully and learn from them.
  • Spice up your stories with identification. Can you use younger people and experts instead?
  • Angle toward a life stage. What in this story could be interesting to a younger reader; for example, include a family with small children or young adults.
  • Sharpen headlines and leads to evoke interest and emotions. 
  • Be specific: Is there a surprising angle or a detail that flies?
  • Be authentic, real, and personal. Describe it like it is, without filters. Are there any authentic images, a story of something gone wrong, something unsaid?  
  • Most importantly, continue to create great and engaging journalism with stories that evoke emotions. We found that young subscribers are quite picky and disloyal, which means you have to be your best self to attract them. Great journalism is the key.

Dont do this:

  • Don’t change and try to be “down with the kids.” I promise you, they will see through you and will find better sources for that. We found young people go to our news services to get serious, relevant news, and journalism that they can rely on. 
  • Dont think the young audience should change its reading habits to fit your content. It must be we who adapt and learn to understand what content is relevant to our different audiences. 
  • Do not think that you can “fix the problem” by hiring a couple of younger reporters to do all the content for this target audience. Older reporters have the experiences and knowledge that are needed for doing great journalism; the mix is important. And more importantly, the whole news desk must be involved.
Throughout 2022, VK has continued seeing good results in attracting younger subscribers.
Throughout 2022, VK has continued seeing good results in attracting younger subscribers.

Cracking the code

At Västerbottens-Kurirens Media, we think we are on our way to cracking the code on how to reach the younger audience. We now have guidelines for how to create and distribute content for our target groups. And, it’s working!

More than 70% of our new customers in 2021 and (so far) in 2022 are 45 years and younger. But, of course, we still have a long way to go. 

In the north of Sweden, it’s not considered nice to be boastful. At VK Media we quite often do great things, but we usually dont brag about it. Until now. (It was actually easier than I thought!)

About Marie Albinsson

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