Kristine Lowe is a freelance journalist who writes on the media industry for number of US, UK and Norwegian publications. This week Online Journalism Scandinavia looks at how Norway’s leading news sites attract their audiences.
- Schibsted-owned VG’s recipe for success is to give people the diet they had no idea they craved
- Norway’s public broadcaster, NRK, wants to make it easier for lazy users to take shortcuts
Frozen pizza with champagne
Schibsted’s idiosyncratic take on newspaper website design recently received mention in this excellent article by the Press Gazette (also check out Mark Comerford’s and Espen Andersen’s thoughts).
However, its VG title is perhaps in a class of its own. It’s Norway’s most read news site with 2.7m unique users and a staggering profit margin of 42 – 45 per cent for the last three years. So the way it structures content is just as, if not more, important and also needs emphasis.
“VG has the world’s ugliest website, but the great thing about it is that it lets you discover things you did not know you were interested in. Other news sites divide their content in neatly defined sections, but we believe that people will drink champagne with frozen pizza if given the choice,”said Torry Pedersen, editor-in-chief of VG online.
“That, if given the choice on the same page, people will want to read both a well argued piece on file-sharing and a story on Britney Spears’ latest escapades.”
To get even more readers to its content VG has also developed Norway’s second biggest social network, Nettby, with 657,000 members. It’s roughly half the size of Facebook in Norway and Schibsted is already in the process of exporting it to its operations in Sweden and Spain.
The world’s laziest anarchy
Despite VG’s dominance, public broadcaster NRK has almost doubled its online traffic in the last year with a 42 per cent increase in unique users – from 651,000 in the first week of 2007, to 1.1m in the fist week of 2008.
(Traffic numbers for both sites from TNS Gallup, which only counts traffic generated by Norway’s 4.7m citizens)
Part of this traffic rise can be attributed to the NRK take on how to best alert people to content they might find interesting.
“The web is the world’s laziest anarchy: people choose the least difficult path. With this in mind, we are working to be present where people are and give them the opportunity to discover us there, which means on Facebook, YouTube and other such places,” said Eirik Solheim, a media developer with NRK’s online team.
“There are three ways to deal with what is happening with social media. You choose not to be present; you choose to make your own services that can compete with Facebook, as VG has been successful with; or you choose to be present where people are to increase familiarity with your brand and strengthen distribution. We see the last option as a great opportunity,” said Bjarne Andre Myklebust, head of NRK’s online division.
Two takes on serendipity
Both news groups’ strategies play to the serendipitous nature of the web, but while VG’s approach is designed to keep readers hooked by satisfying old and newfound appetites on its site, NRK wants to increase your chances of accidentally stumbling across its content.
No doubt, NRK wants those accidental users to linger. So if it keeps its promise to open up more of its archives and make more and more of its content freely and easily available in the places – beyond its own websites – where people hang out online, it will be interesting to see which is the more successful strategy.