What does Dagbladet’s digital growth in lockdown mean for its print future?

By Alexandra Beverfjord

Dagbladet

Oslo, Norway

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Large news events cause large sections of the population to seek out editor-controlled media. In this way, events represent an opportunity for the media to show what they are good at. If users’ expectations are met, more of them will remain after the initial events have calmed down.

When the COVID-19 global lockdown was at its most intense, people had a huge need for information.

News organisations like Dagbladet saw tremendous growth in their digital offerings during the global lockdown.
News organisations like Dagbladet saw tremendous growth in their digital offerings during the global lockdown.

Dagbladet had periods with usage that was twice as high as the corresponding period last year. But even after the intense months, we have experienced strong growth compared to last year. In particular, we see this in the number of pageviews, both on mobile and desktop.

Journalism mix

A special feature of the initial COVID-19 outbreak is that it was so powerful it had major consequences for a number of other sections in the newspapers.

Dagbladet is a popular journalistic newspaper that aims to update, inform, and entertain readers. The most important areas of substance for our users are news, sports, and entertainment. During the early days of COVID-19, it was almost impossible to publish news about sports and also entertainment, especially related to culture. We therefore chose to move journalists from these areas and into the breaking news operation.

The situation is now more normalised, and the reporters covering sports and culture are back to their former beats and departments. However, the pageviews in these areas haven’t lifted much above the corresponding figures from last year.

News journalism, on the other hand, received a huge boost during the pandemic period. For a newspaper like Dagbladet, which aims to be the best on breaking news, these are very gratifying numbers.

TV news coverage during the lockdown offered up-to-date coverage.
TV news coverage during the lockdown offered up-to-date coverage.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Norway, we also adjusted the strategy for Dagbladet TV. Almost all focus was turned to live reporting. Dagbladet had daily news broadcasts focusing on COVID-19, and we brought in experts to the digital platform’s fast television studio. In short, we gave the audience an opportunity to be present when information and news were delivered to the public while utilising our own news force better through our TV operations.

This also became a very popular platform, which quickly gave us an opportunity to establish ourselves with more television coverage within the news area. Thus, during the pandemic we were suddenly in a position where we could offer readers and viewers full-fledged, multi-channel news journalism. We also see interest in a strong presence with TV continued after Norway started to open up after the shutdown.

Future of the print newspaper

For Dagbladet, the COVID-19 lockdown led to significant digital growth. For print newspapers, the pandemic represented a greater challenge.

It was not just media habits that were further digitised during the lockdown. Online stores in a wide range of markets reported strong progress. In Norway, online retail saw a boost, both in selling goods and selling groceries.

The need to shelter at home led to a partial shutdown in Norway. Schools and shops closed. Home offices were set up all over the country. A number of people were quarantined and others stayed home voluntarily, visiting shops as rarely as possible.

For newspapers like Dagbladet, which sells single-copy newspapers and not a subscription product, the shutdown had a big impact on the sale of the print edition. Dagbladet will continue to publish the print edition as long as there is sufficient interest in the newspaper among our readers. But in general, events like COVID-19 will move us closer to the end date for print newspapers.

Digital future

At the same time, this is an expected development we are already prepared for. Internationally, we hear more often about the closure of print editions. For Dagbladet, the thinking has been digital first for many years, and most of today’s revenue comes from digital and not print copies.

The number of digital subscribers is several times larger than the number of daily buyers of the print edition. The number of daily unique digital users is many times higher than the readers of the print edition. The early days of COVID-19 gave media development a good push into the future.

About Alexandra Beverfjord

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