Aftonbladet’s Digital Media Journey to Innovation

South Africa and Sweden might be on the opposite ends of the world but media managers shared the same concerns when it comes to managing paid content.

Sweden’s Aftonbladet “Plus” head Ted Kudinoff, one of the key speakers at the Digital Media Africa 2018 conference, took delegates through the award-winning publication’s paid content journey as he outlined a decade of innovation.

Aftonbladet has one of the largest subscriber bases in Europe and staff are attuned to digital usage patterns when it came to the story generation process.

“It was 2007 when we started to integrate daily goals for every department, sports, entertainment, news, everyone,” Kudinoff told delegates to the Digital Media Africa conference.

“It was easy at first. For example sports had to convert eight new subscribers every day,” he laughed.

“In 2009 in the whole of Scandinavia it was micropayments… single article sales. But it was a huge disaster for us,” he noted. “We launched it in August, two weeks later, I think it was, we pulled it back.”

Kudinoff outlined how one of the first things that Aftonbladet learned was to make mistakes and then rapidly change the models.

“Our subscription model confused our readers. They were like ‘What are you doing?’ It cost one euro for an article, two euros for a subscription for one month, then it was one point five for two articles – they didn’t understand it.”

Kudinoff said the management then agreed they would never again sell micropayments as an option on their platforms.

Aftonbladet’s owners changed in 2012 and the new shareholders demanded that the paper needed to earn over 35 million euros in subscriptions and that Kudinoff said that was the tipping point.

By 2013 Afonbladet realised that most of their competitors through Scandinavia were using mobile phones to generate income. So they launched an easy mobile payment system in 2014 which included a two-phase model. The first was something they called “Plus” and the second was called “Premium” – the latter included the entire suite of platforms including the e-edition and mobile application along with website login.

Aftonbladet also altered the management silos in different ways. For example, they combined the editorial staff with the business staff while clearly outlining goals for both. They placed business development staff alongside news editors and the production staff.

“We have two more business development staff who’ve joined us in the last two weeks,” he said. “We have this focus, we’re sitting ten metres away from the breaking news desk. We meet three times a day and I sit at that desk to see what’s going on,” he said.

While personalisation of content has experienced some resistance, the newspaper had great success with partnering with telecommunication companies to tie subscriptions to new contracts. By including campaigns, the telecommunication company also paid for advertising in the publications which increased both their returns and the numbers of users.

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