How Scandinavian Legacy Publishers are Thriving on Facebook

November 3, 2016

Written by NewsWhip
Scandinavian innovation

What are the biggest Scandinavian sites on Facebook? And what approaches are Nordic publishers taking to innovate on social media and grow their audiences? We look at the data. 
When it comes to social publishing in Europe, we’ve seen many sites wonder how they can compete for digital audience with many US-based competitors, and increasing fragmentation in their audience.
But there are success stories from country to country.
In Spike, we see sites from northern Europe performing strongly on Facebook, and plenty of competition amongst Scandinavian publishers in particular. Engagement for those sites is rising, and most of their legacy media brands are navigating their way onto the social and mobile landscape quite confidently.
So, how are newsrooms in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark successfully tapping into their social media audiences, and how are they going about doing it?
To start, here were the biggest Scandinavian publishers on Facebook, by total engagement on their web-based content in September 2016.
The Biggest Scandinavian Sites on Facebook, September 2016
In terms of overall engagement, it’s Swedish site Expressen that lead the region in overall engagement. Expressen is the best-selling tabloid in Sweden. After that comes Aftonbladet, another well-known Swedish newspaper, followed by Finnish tabloid rivals Ilta-Sanomat and Iltahelti.
Notice a pattern? Legacy media is thriving in Scandinavian news feeds. As well as legacy brands, public broadcasters in all four countries seem to be competing strongly on Facebook, which isn’t the case in all countries. So, what do Scandinavian legacy publishers have to their advantage that websites in other markets might not necessarily be able to leverage?
Well first, each of these four countries have very deep levels of mobile usage. In the Reuters Digital News Report from earlier this year, the Nordic countries were amongst the highest consumers of news on mobile in the world. 69% of Swedes get their news on mobile, and 64% of Norwegians. Largely thanks to affordable data charges and good infrastructure, Nordic publishers are able to reach large swathes of the population, and have been forced to think with mobile in mind up front. As we already know, having a mobile and social mindset in the newsroom is critical to building sustained loyal audiences.

Paywalls and native distribution strategies

In September, Norwegian publishing house Schibsted Media, which owns Aftenposten, Aftenbladet and other news titles, announced that they would be pooling product and tech resources at all their titles to create a company-wide team. That’s partly to come up with innovative features to help ensure that those sites can continue to have significant and meaningful control over the distribution of their content, underlining the idea that many Scandinavian publishers see platforms such as Google and Facebook as only one part of their audience development strategy.
While some Scandinavian sites have been slow to jump into native distribution, that doesn’t come out of fear of the format. Much of the digital content that they offer on their websites is of very high quality, and with the competitive bar being set fairly high, there’s possibly been less of a race to the bottom for clicks that some larger language markets have seen.
Language is another factor, with the smaller language markets better-placed to resist smaller competitors gobbling up their readership.
We’ve seen that the larger language markets, particularly English, Spanish and German, often face increased competition from a wider array of digital native sites. Meanwhile, Nordic countries have some of the highest rates of people paying for online news in the world, with a sizeable 27% of Norwegians paying for online news in the last year, according to the Reuters Institute.
The preferred approach with Scandinavian publishers is the porous and freemium paywall models, which allows for strong social media growth.
Let’s take a closer look, country-by-country.

Sweden*: Mobile is key

Expressen is the largest publisher on Facebook in Sweden and across Scandinavia. They had almost 4 million engagements last month, and dominated with their Facebook page.
When we talked to Expressen’s Head of Audience Development Dan Edstrom last year, he emphasised the importance of catering to a mobile audience across the board. “Mobile is pretty much everything right now,” he commented, so it’s safe to assume that catering effectively to that channel has not diminished in importance.
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Aftonbladet came in second overall in September, indicating that these two titles are in a close competitive battle for attention in the Swedish market. After them, national broadcaster comes in with over 1 million engagements for the month, before a long fall-off into the hundreds of thousands for other websites.
Despite the top three sites’ dominance on Facebook, it’s another site, Svenska Dagbladet, that had the most shared article of the month on Facebook, an opinion piece from a teacher.

Finland: Competitive tiers on Facebook

Of the four national markets we looked at for this analysis, Finland looks like the country with the most competition on social media.
On Facebook, the competition can roughly be divided into two main categories. At the top, leaders Ilta Sanomat and Iltahelti are battling for superior engagement.
Barring the very top shared story in September (from YLE) almost all of the top 20 most shared stories for the month came from these two sites, indicating their grip in Finnish news feeds.
Further down the engagement rankings, three more sites battle it out. Commercial broadcaster (different to the American MTV) is ahead of national broadcaster YLE. Next comes newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, before a fall-off to the remaining Finnish publishers.

Denmark and Norway: Sizeable engagement for small markets

Engagement levels for Denmark and Norway may seem quite low, but when you consider that this is for a country of 5.5 million and 5 million people, and all the content is in their native languages, the figures are actually pretty impressive.
The biggest Danish publisher on Facebook in September 2016 was public broadcaster TV2, which achieved almost 2 million interactions during the month. Tabloid Ekstra Bladet came in second place, with a strong 1.2 million engagements.
However, the most popular article on Facebook in Denmark in September was from newspaper Politiken, which came in second in terms of overall engagements. An interview with a South Korean economist visiting the country, it attracted almost 30,000 engagements, and illustrates the potential for news-focussed content to thrive on social media.
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When we looked at a Spike dashboard of Scandinavian Facebook pages however, the most dominant page was Danish tabloid publisher BT. That’s largely thanks to their native videos, which they post regularly, drawing engagement from across the news feed.
Commercial broadcaster TV2 in Norway come out on top, with over 1.7 million engagements. They’re followed by national broadcaster NRK, again showing the digital dominance of public media in Scandinavia. Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper by circulation, is a market-leader in the country’s media market. On Facebook they come in fourth overall with almost 1 million Facebook engagements, just behind tabloid Dagbladet.

The top 18 Scandinavian sites on Facebook

These were the top 18 Scandinavian websites on Facebook in September 2016. The numbers refer to total Facebook engagements (likes, shares, comments and reactions) on their web-based content during September 2016.
The Most Engaged Scandinavian Publishers on Facebook, September 2016
We strive for complete coverage – if you think our numbers could be improved, please let us know over email.
*Figures for Swedish site were regrettably unavailable for this analysis. 

Check out what’s trending in real time in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland with Spike


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