One of Schibsted’s brands is Aftenposten Junior, a weekly newspaper for children. The print edition comes out once a week and is a great way for kids to stay up-to-date on news formatted for their age group.
In addition to news, the newspaper contains reports on how children in different parts of the world live, sports stories, and articles about animals, and children can get answers to questions about feelings, friendship, and other things that concern them. The newspaper also has content that engages and entertains children, such as quizzes, crossword puzzles, and jokes.
When the coronavirus began to spread in Norway and the schools closed, we wanted to help by offering Aftenposten Junior to schoolchildren for free. Most importantly, we knew kids needed a safe source of news. But we also saw free access to Aftenposten Junior as a useful supplement for teachers to use in the new, digital homeschooling situation.
We knew the situation was new to teachers as well, and they would need content for teaching on digital platforms in the period that lay ahead of us.
How it started
Around 10:00 a.m. on the first day of school closures, the chief editor of Aftenposten Junior reached out. She had an idea.
As the editor-in-chief for Norway’s largest publication for kids, Mari Midtstigen immediately pictured the kids’ situation: forced to stay home from schools, experiencing a new everyday situation overnight, seeking information and answers in a format they would understand. Midtstigen and Line Grendahl, manager for Aftenposten Junior’s marketing team, also thought about all the teachers forced to teach their students. Teachers had to digitally use apps and tools developed for a much smaller group of users that were already failing to meet needs on the first day of usage.
“Let’s do something good for the nation of Norway by giving all children free access,” Midtstigen said, and so they did.
The idea was good. The question was how could this be achieved?
We asked ourselves several questions: Should we distribute Aftenposten Junior to all children in Norway? How do we find out where all children in Norway live? Wouldn’t there be misunderstandings associated with such a distribution? How could we communicate that this was something to provide them with a reliable news source, not that they received the neighbour’s edition?
We received lots of thoughts and input. Engagement was huge. Quite quickly, we decided it needed to be digital for two reasons:
- Communication would be easier.
- The cost in an uncertain economic situation was approximately zero.
Several questions then emerged: How would we communicate with the free users when schools opened and the access closed again? Would they be willing to buy a subscription when we stopped the free access?
These were relevant commercial thoughts from a commercial team. Still, we knew if we wanted the best marketing out of this stunt, namely positive PR, we could not collect data from the users. After all, they were children, and we could not use this for sales purposes in the future. The decision was clear: This was a social mission and a way to contribute, completely without obligations or a hidden agenda.
Aftenposten Junior publishes a PDF edition every week in Schibsted’s magazine app, MAGASIN+. This app supports both iOS and Android in addition to a browser version on the Web site.
This is basically a digital subscription product where you get access to numerous magazines, special editions, and guides. In addition, it works as a digital solution for customers who have a print subscription to one of Aftenposten’s magazines so they can read print editions digitally if they want to.
To access the content of MAGASIN+, you need a subscription and be logged in. The login system is Schibsted’s own (a Schibsted account). Users need an e-mail address and password to log in. This would be an obstacle for children. It would be even more of an obstacle if schools and teachers wanted to use the free access to the newspaper in their teaching programme during the home-schooling period, which we hoped they would. Therefore, to facilitate free access to Aftenposten Junior in MAGASIN+, we needed to code a solution that would work without a login.
The communication strategy for the launch and marketing activities included:
- A landing page explaining how to read Aftenposten Junior for free. We made up a dedicated short URL (ap.no/aftenpostenjunior) that was easy to communicate.
- Press release to the major media houses as well as the directorate for education and selected school institutions.
- Social media included banner ads spread via Facebook and Instagram to target audiences like parents and teachers.
- Editorial content included an interview with Midtstigen in the parent newspaper, Aftenposten, about the opening of Aftenposten Junior content and the importance of reliable news sources to help children feel safe and secure.
- We started producing a TV commercial that was ready as early as the first Monday after schools closed on the previous Friday, just three days earlier.
- PR articles were written and distributed to be picked up by media sites outside Aftenposten.
Of course, we were very keen to keep track of how many people visited and downloaded Aftenposten Junior via MAGASIN+.
The development was instant:
- Friday, March 13, at 5:05 p.m.: 50 downloaded issues
- Friday, March 13, at 5:28 p.m.: 212 downloaded issues
- Friday, March 13, at 6:13 p.m.: 1,404 downloaded issues
- Friday, March 13, at 9:42 p.m.: 7,116 downloaded issues
- Sunday, March 15, at 6:22 p.m.: 15,220 downloaded issues
- Monday, March 16, at 9:22 a.m.: 18,431 downloaded issues
On the day of launch, we had more than 7,000 readers of the digital version of Aftenposten Junior. At the end of the first week, we had more than 40,000! After six weeks, the number had risen to 187,000 unique users and more than 500,000 read editions of Aftenposten Junior. This exceeds our normal reading of the newspaper by far.
Traffic is great, but what about sales?
When we opened Aftenposten Junior, we were already running an ongoing sales campaign. We decided not to cancel the campaign immediately, but to evaluate the effect on the paid subscription campaign before we optionally decided to pause it.
The decline in paid sales didn’t happen! The sales campaign actually generated more sales than expected. On March 16, we were far above our target of 800 with 1,368 sales.
We saw that the positive brand awareness the opening generated may have led to even more sales from the campaign. The campaign’s goal was 800 sales, and we doubled this with 1,763 new subscribers while all kids in school and teachers had free access.
Press conference for kids
The Norwegian government, under Prime Minister Erna Solberg, took the initiative to hold a separate press conference for children, with questions from children submitted to NRK Supernytt (the nation’s TV channel for kids) and Aftenposten Junior. The initiative came on Saturday, March 14, and was held on Monday, March 16, at 10:30 a.m. Only NRK Supernytt and Aftenposten Junior were invited to participate.
We implemented a livestream from the landing page we had created when opening Aftenposten Junior so we could send traffic there during the press conference. In this way, we made the press conference available on our own platforms while at the same time showing we had opened Aftenposten Junior for both kids and adults. To communicate this, we used sponsored posts on Facebook.
Opening Aftenposten Junior has given us three great benefits:
1. The awareness of our newspaper for children, Aftenposten Junior, rose enormously.
2. Because users had to read Aftenposten Junior via our streaming service, MAGASIN+, we also impacted the knowledge and awareness of this product as well.
3. Schibsted is working on a digital teaching platform for teachers in elementary schools that will be called Aftenposten Junior skole. We know teachers used Aftenposten Junior in their new digital school day, and we now know they appreciate our content and are able to use our content in teaching. This is good information and a great incentive for when we launch our school product and begin selling licenses for Aftenposten Junior school.