Dagbladet’s investigative piece on oligarchs designed with 30 entry points

By Alexandra Beverfjord


Oslo, Norway


For a digital newspaper like Norwegian Dagbladet, its first and foremost priority is about breaking news and what is happening right now. Every second counts when the news is published. New articles and Web TV clips come in constantly, and the headlines rarely stay at the top of the page for more than an hour.

However, some articles require more than one hour in the spotlight, especially stories that are very important and for which there is a lot of editorial effort. Stories like investigative journalism projects.

So, how can this be resolved?

The complex story of Russia's oligarchs required attention beyond a single article that would quickly fade from the front page.
The complex story of Russia's oligarchs required attention beyond a single article that would quickly fade from the front page.

The problem

Just as a linear TV or radio channel cannot broadcast the same story on repeat for an entire day, an online newspaper cannot let the same article be a top story for an entire day. It creates a poor user experience for all readers who visit your site more than once a day. It tells them you have nothing new to report since they last visited.

At the same time, it is really bad to let large and important investigative journalism race down the Web site until it is hardly possible for readers to find it again, even after a short time. This type of journalism is too important. The goal is to get as many people as possible to read these investigative stories.

One well-known way to solve this for digital newspapers is to break up the story into many parts. The advantage is that you can create several top stories several days in a row, which also gets good visibility. The challenge is often that the story becomes fragmented. Readers do not necessarily get the wholeness and massiveness of the projects when they read just parts of the story.

The oligarch project

Following Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the oligarchs have come into the public spotlight. In May, Dagbladet journalists Trym Mogen, Anniken Aronsen, Ivar Benjamin Østebø, and Marte Nyløkken Helseth decided to investigate the lives of the Russian oligarchs and their connections to Russia’s president.

Dagbladet journalists have written and reported about the oligarchs since day one of the war, but much of the coverage in both Dagbladet and other media was fragmented. There was news of yachts being seized, private jets fleeing, and properties being arrested or rammed. But how big was the scope? How severe were the punishments for the men that a number of Western countries believe made Putin’s war possible? And, importantly, to what extent did they manage to get away with the sanctions with their money intact?

The journalists knew the war months had torn apart, and partially destroyed, the world of the oligarchs, but they wanted to map and document everything in an understandable way for readers.

Tech from the start

Before the journalists started working, they connected with the tech and data departments. A team consisting of a designer and two editorial developers (Tore Meek, Liselotte Hauer Kind, and Kevin Midbøe) started to work on how to set up the presentation, user journey, and distribution. Their main issues in this phase of the work were:

  • How can we best present such a comprehensive and complex case?
  • How do we get the reader to stay in the oligarchy universe?
  • How should we work with video, images, and graphics?
  • How can we create a consistent expression and design that gave the reader the feeling of being in a particular universe?

A new graphic expression

A new graphic expression saw the light of day. It’s a design with lively and moving elements, chapter divisions inside the article itself, and a navigation menu so readers can jump between the chapters. In addition, there is variation between filtered images, coloured fact boxes, and a wide range of visual elements to increase readability and give readers greater insight into the lives of the oligarchs.

The team wanted to make the story as vivid and dynamic as possible, both on the front page of Dagbladet and for the readers who clicked on it.

30 different angles

Right from the start of the project, they designed a possible structure and user experience for the project that provided flexibility. They wanted to publish this as one package with everything presented openly to the reader rather than publish it as a series of articles over several days, which is what Dagbladet has previously done with this type of project.

The reason was they wanted to give readers one total package. But, how could they promote it well? Prior to publication, the team presented 30 different angles and images related to the various chapters. Each input led readers straight to the chapter shown on the front page. This meant the team could publish everything in one universe.

It gave readers the opportunity to consume everything at once, or they could read chapter by chapter. This gave the team the opportunity to maintain a high position on the front page, without it becoming static in any way.

For Dagbladet, this is a new and better way of presenting larger case complexes. The result was a large increase in the number of readers, compared to similar pieces published in the past.

About Alexandra Beverfjord

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