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How Dagens Nyheter pivots to a newsroom culture ‘as if print didn’t exist’ and reader revenue rules

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How Dagens Nyheter pivots to a newsroom culture ‘as if print didn’t exist’ and reader revenue rules

Back in 2015, Dagens Nyheter’s business model was completely dependent on print, with the entire production and planning model steering towards it. At the time, Dagens Nyheter had basically no digital subscribers, Martin Jönsson, head of editorial development, told participants of WAN-IFRA’s recent Scandinavian Study Tour.

“Changing newsroom culture and working as if print didn’t exist has been absolutely key,” Jönsson said. “Reader revenue is the only thing that we can rely on for building a sustainable business model for the future.”

The total number of subscribers has increased by 26 %, in spite of print subscriptions dropping by 43 %. Digital-only reader revenue has increased by 40-70 % annually. Reader revenue now exceeds 70 % of total revenue.The total number of subscribers has increased by 26 %, in spite of print subscriptions dropping by 43 %. Digital-only reader revenue has increased by 40-70 % annually. Reader revenue now exceeds 70 % of total revenue.

“Many articles from the print edition were published online after midnight or the day after, with little consideration about what was optimal to the reader. Then, we basically had a revolution on how we work and how we structure things internally.”

Investigative and quality content drives conversions

As part of this process, Dagens Nyheter introduced three different paywall models: a metered model, a premium model, and a “dashboard model”, the latter being the most important one, and responsible for more than half of all conversions. Certain content is left open for a few hours, and goes behind the paywall if it's successful in terms of direct and external traffic. The algorithmically-driven system is semi-automated, with editors receiving a recommendation to put a story behind the paywall once three hours have passed, and it has reached certain levels of traffic.

“Trying to distribute a story to get people to talk about it and share it, and then putting it behind the paywall is key,” Jönsson said.

With reader revenue at its core, and exceeding 70 percent of total revenue (this includes print and digital), Dagens Nyheter prioritises longer reading times and frequent visits over other KPIs such as page views.

The most successful driver for conversion are scoops and investigative stories, followed by content in the long-form or visual journalism category. In-depth guides and lifestyle content focusing on topics such as work, family, relationships, and health also work well in terms of reading time and conversions.

The fourth essential pillar of Dagens Nyheter’s editorial strategy is breaking news, although it doesn't really contribute to converting readers.
“It's extremely important to avoid churn," Jönsson said. “If we're not good at breaking news, no one will keep us as their main news provider.”

Avoiding churn with the help of the newsroom

Dagens Nyhter lowered churn from early 2017 when it was around 15 percent to 7 percent today. One key component in achieving this was internal organisational change, bringing the newsroom and all other departments closer together.

“We have an agile organisation, we have daily check-ins, we work with sprint initiatives where someone from the different parts of the organisation is included, from the newsroom, from marketing, from reader revenue,” Jönsson said.

Working with an Israeli company, Dagens Nyheter identified some 200 factors that affect churn positively or negatively, allowing them to predict with 86 percent accuracy who will churn.

“By dividing our customers into micro-segments, we could see, for instance, that you haven’t been very active on the web page in the past 30 days, combined with the fact that you don’t use an iPhone or the e-paper or something like that. This would put you in the red zone so you’d be very likely to churn,” Jönnson said.

The newsroom is also actively involved in the process of building habit and loyalty by, for example, working to increase newsletter readership or assisting in the initial onboarding process, which includes welcome newsletters, content recommendation, or highlighting top writers subscribers should follow. “We can’t just leave that to the marketing department, we have to be very included in that as well,” he said.

To help the newsroom team work towards the right KPIs, such as engagement and reading time, Dagens Nyheter developed several internal analytics tools. Making data accessible to everyone and helping them understand reader behaviour helped drive cultural change, Jönsson said.

Communication and collaboration to improve planning and production

Additionally, Dagens Nyheter has been working a lot with its digital planning process, introducing a workflow for medium and large projects that consists of five steps: a startup meeting, production, optimising publishing, repackaging, and evaluation.

Everybody who is involved in a story idea participates in the startup meeting to form an initial plan, discussing the best ways to produce the story, how it can be presented on different platforms, and when it should be published.
During the production phase, the team adds the job to the planning tool in the CMS, creates a dedicated Slack channel for all communication surrounding it, and starts producing content for different platforms.

To optimise online publishing and achieve maximum impact, the team sets the publishing time for different platforms, pre-produces push notifications, and multiple teasers for the front page, so editors can experiment with them and swap them out to determine which one engages readers the most.

While the number of stories published has been reduced by 30 percent over the past two years, the newsroom still produces more than 100 stories a day, which is why repackaging and reusing content is another important aspect of the workflow chain, and Dagens Nyheter’s strategy in general.

The process of producing and publishing a story optimised for different platforms is rounded off with the evaluation to openly discuss what worked well, or what could be improved.

Although this approach involves a lot of communication, it's actually saved a lot of time and prevents many misunderstandings, Jönsson said. “People feel much more informed, and it has reduced stress in the newsroom.”

Stay tuned for upcoming Study Tours, which can be found on


Simone Flueckiger's picture

Simone Flueckiger


2019-11-28 13:31

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