A Human Voice Behind The News Makes All The Difference

A human voice behind the news makes all the difference

The interest in and need for news has never been greater. At Aftonbladet the number of visitors has increased dramatically. Live reporting with option to interact and ask questions is a success – as is audio. Some 15 new podcasts are on their way.

The interest in news has skyrocketed during the pandemic. Most of us only need to look at our own behavior during the crisis to understand this need, but it’s also proven in a survey from the Swedish research company Ungdomsbarometern (approaching 15–49 year-olds). They report that half of the respondents spend more time on news sites during the pandemic than before. At Aftonbladet the number of visits and page views almost doubled when it all started. During the shocking days in mid-March, we reached almost five million unique visitors and 55 million page views every day. The behavior was the same for many weeks, and surveys tell us that the population has formed a stronger relationship with several news sources during the pandemic. There is a strong need to be updated and to get perspective on these complex events.

A strong urge to ask questions

Especially one type of new behavior has characterized this longtime, on­going pandemic: the dialogue-based news reporting. As a part of Aftonbladet live reporting there is a 24/7 opportunity for the users to ask journalists questions. During the pandemic, the urge to do so has been stronger than ever. Since March 12, we have received over half a million questions from our readers, and our journalists have answered as many as possible. It has become very clear that people in many cases turn to news sources to get information rather than to the official authorities, which really emphasizes our societal mission.

The user experience, with a live feed that keeps you updated, live video and the possibility to ask your questions or to read what others have asked, has generated never-before-seen engagement and love from the users. This open line with the audience is a competitive advantage for us that really differentiates us from the big platforms.

In Aftonbladet there is that human touch, there is a person behind the news, always someone there who you can actually reach out to.

The engagement will continue

We believe that this engaging behavior will continue to grow in all types of news. This type of reporting is already available all the time in both Aftonbladet’s Supernytt and in the VG Nyhetsdøgnet. Here the conversation between the newsroom and the audience goes on day and night – peek in and have a look. Many times the questions are very entertaining!

Another trend that really reaches and engages our users is audio. And by that I’m not talking about the big buzz with ”hi Google, give me the latest news”-voice assistants that haven’t really taken off in the Nordics yet. I’m talking about podcasts. A medium that has been around for some time, but now really is accelerating with a 25 percent increase in weekly listening since 2018 (Orvesto). But still, only around 55 percent of the Swedish population are actually listening to podcasts and we know that there still is a big untapped market among the older segments.

That’s why Aftonbladet, in the coming months, will launch some 15 new podcasts – and a significant amount of them the users will pay for. This is a new strong trend in the market with Spotify (yes, it is a paid product, you have just probably forgotten you do pay) going in heavily on unique content, as well as the Schibsted-owned company Podme that builds its business model on paid pods.

A higher willingness to pay

At Aftonbladet we are already seeing a higher willingness to pay for online news and over a quarter of the Swedish population had access to paid online news in the last year. This and the fact that many users say they would pay for their favorite podcasts gives us a great opportunity to combine and strengthen our paid offering, Plus.

We had our first paid pod during the summer – Spring så snackar vi, a runners’ podcast. It’s a great example of users being ready to pay for niche content in the form of audio. Our upcoming launches will be in economy, sports, crime and news. For us the launch of our new podcast player within our own platforms has been an enabler for pods, and it also opens up an opportunity to introduce the world of pod to the 45 percent who have not yet left radio or discovered standalone podcast players on their mobile phones.

All in all, the trends mentioned above are all about finding new ways of engaging our users. Whether it’s about ”being there” to deliver information and answering questions in a live chat, or whether it’s about delivering podcasts that make the users dive into complex subject or just offering a short break from this complex time we live in.

Niclas Bergstrom

Niclas Bergström
COO, Aftonbladet
Years in Schibsted
What I’ve missed the most during the Corona crisis
Being in the stadium supporting my beloved football team AIK