During the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for information has been enormous. At times, the use of Dagbladet’s digital platforms has doubled compared to the same period last year. This has led to a dramatic change in how we organise our operations and how we work to deliver on our news assignments.
Dagbladet is Norway’s second largest digital newspaper, and we reach approximately 30% of the country’s population every day. The newspaper has reported on news events since 1869 and has covered the Spanish flu, two world wars, and a number of financial crises. Throughout our history, we have been there for our readers, just as we are there today covering the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As a tabloid newspaper, we are well aware that we have to be relevant for readers.
Reorganisation of the newsroom
Early in the pandemic, we decided to reorganise our newsroom to deliver the best coverage possible. We removed the divisions between the departments and created new reporting lines and a new meeting structure.
Journalists who normally covered sports and culture were now hired to cover COVID-19. The units were given the responsibility to follow up on how politicians were handling the situation and the human stories, research, health care system, economic consequences, and other similar topics.
As a newspaper, part of our mission is to convey authorities’ messages, advice, and instructions directly to the public. But we must also challenge the system. We need to examine politicians, researchers, and health leaders’ decisions, views, and statements in a fact-driven way. As much as possible, our readers should be able to understand why measures are being implemented, what their purpose is, and what consequences they will have.
In an open democracy, this is precisely the mission of the press. This has been an important point for many news media during the pandemic.
We set up our own “public service” group to work on giving our readers a better overview. Initially, there was no good overview from the authorities about how the measures turned out, so we asked citizens to register their status — whether at home or in their quarters — on an interactive map. In a short period of time, 160,000 Norwegians from all over the country had registered, and more than a million people visited the service.
We also created a “home life” service, where readers could share photos from their everyday lives from their home offices across the country. We created graphics and overviews of developments in the world and in Norway. Like other media in Norway, we also collected daily figures from all over the country about the infected and dead, which were made available in a database and people could search their municipalities.
Disease control measures were immediately implemented in Dagbladet in line with the authorities’ recommendations. Many employees had to work from home. Those who continued to meet at the workplace were met with strict infection control measures. We set up daily meetings on Teams to avoid gathering people.
Other media houses called their correspondents home from the United States. We chose to keep our staff in New York. Presence there was important.
Another challenge was how to report from different places in Norway, since hotels were closed and transportation possibilities more limited. Our solution was to send reporters out in RVs.
We have also cut costs during this period. However, we have increased our efforts when it comes to finding new ways to increase revenue.
Dagbladet Pluss, which sells digital subscriptions, has experienced a strong growth, which in turn creates opportunities to increase earnings on the digital marked. Recently we passed 120,000 digital subscribers. We have also prioritised staffing for the news and Web TV. The latter is also experiencing good progress in ad sales, despite COVID-19.
The coronavirus pandemic is referred to by many as a “black swan,” a surprising event that has devastating consequences. Our focus in Dagbladet has been on delivering the best possible product to users. In addition, we work to deal with the financial consequences that have arisen and at the same time exploit the opportunities we see.