Disappearing text campaign highlights press freedom at NTM

By Jens Pettersson


Stockholm, Sweden


Suddenly, the words and pictures on the screen begin to disappear. Was it a virus from evil hackers? Or an editor suddenly deciding to surprise the audience and erase all the headlines? No.

In the beginning of May, all 19 of our newsrooms at NTM carried out a campaign on Press Freedom Day to draw attention to the importance of free speech and remind readers that press freedom is not a matter of course in many parts of the world.

Traditionally, this kind of event would be highlighted by a column about press freedom by the editor-in-chief. We decided to do that as well, but to draw extra attention to the cause — and to actually get these important columns read — we realised we needed something extra.

The printed NTM publication carried a special message on the first page and the press freedom campaign message on the second page.
The printed NTM publication carried a special message on the first page and the press freedom campaign message on the second page.

We wanted to clearly describe, in the most obvious way, what the world would look like without a free press. In close collaboration among the newsrooms and our departments focused on reader revenue, communication, and tech, we developed a unique solution where every visitor to the site was met by a news site where the content is gradually deleted. One-by-one, we made the words and pictures disappear from the screen.

The message only appeared one time for each reader. It all took place in real time, impacting headlines for the news live at the moment each reader visited the site. The campaign was followed by a landing page where the reader received an explanation of the cause. They then had an opportunity to read the editor-in-chief’s column on press freedom or could navigate to the regular site — or, of course, become a subscriber if they weren’t already!

In the printed newspaper, subscribers were met by a special front page with the campaign message and the column on page two.

To have an extra impact on reader revenue, we also made a special newsletter for our database of more than 50,000 former customers . It had a open rate of 25% and converted 181 customers to our offer.

The campaign also made an impact on our local communities. Each editor-in-chief wrote a column on press freedom, connecting the dots of lack of press freedom to the work in the local newsroom.

“My editorial column made some impressions within the municipality’s organisation. After all, it was a deeply critical of how managers in the public sector often create insecurity among their employees when it comes to their rights to speak to the media, but they took the criticism very well,” said Christoffer Nielsen, editor-in-chief of VT, about the local reactions in the city Västervik.

“Already in the morning, the municipality’s information manager called and said he decided to put together an information campaign for all of the municipality’s employees so they would have more knowledge about their rights to talk to the media. I got to answer a bunch of questions that became part of their material in the campaign,” he said. ”Several public employees conctacted me during the day and confirmed what I wrote about, that they partly had no idea they basically always have the right on their side and it is often predetermined that only the boss is allowed to talk to the media.”

This kind of collaboration within the company around such an important subject as press freedom makes us stronger as an organisation as a whole. To create creativity around our fundamental purpose makes the organisation’s different areas feel proud of our work. And in this specific case, it also strengthens the audience’s perception of our value. It’s very hands-on in the product, reminding them of what the world would look like without journalism.

About Jens Pettersson

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