Globalizing Nordic Media: Lessons Learned

Advertising in the newspaper industry is increasingly problematic due to the rising nature of online media patronage.

nordic-mediaATTEMPTS to globalize the Nordic media market are by far, accelerating as the clock ticks in the global media environment.

Most often, some members of the public would confuse Nordic countries with Scandinavian countries. They perceive “Nordic” to be the same as “Scandinavian.”

To separate fact from fiction, Scandinavian countries are only three with a common denominator in language formation and they are Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. However, there are five Nordic countries stemming from how closely they are related in terms of culture and economic operations. They include Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.

According to Professor Kåre Melhus, a popular journalism lecturer in Norway, Nordic countries comprise three percent of the total population of Europe. Jonas Ohlsson (2015) in his work: “The Nordic Media Market,” describes the five countries as “a group of little overachievers.” Ohlsson explains that for decades, these countries “have all been top performers in many metrics of national performance, including economic competitiveness, civil liberties, gender equality, quality of life and human development.”

In this sphere, the “Nordic Model” translates itself into a formidable media market in the areas of state subsidy, well-structured TV License fee system within the precinct of Public Service Broadcasters, and new shapes in Radio broadcasting, newspaper subscription. Though traditional media seems to feel the heat from the new media like Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, and Apple; the Nordic Media Market continues to stand tall and sail with breaking speed at the global level.

Subsidy to Newspaper Industry

Globalization of the Nordic media market in well-structured economies spans from the development of the newspaper industry. There are over 600 newspapers operating in all five Nordic countries, according to Professor Terje Skjerdal, the Co-ordinator of the Masters of Arts in Global Journalism Program at the NLA University College in Norway.

Out of the 225 newspapers in Norway alone, 150 receive direct subsidy from the government. Circulation and reach to public readers have more lessons for other countries to learn in the sense that the majority of readers of Nordic newspapers are subscribers. Subscribers have newspapers dispatched to their doorsteps early in the morning and pay online every month or any agreed period for which the subscription has been sealed with that newspaper company.

There are also free newspapers that add up to paid-for newspapers in the Nordic media market. Studies conducted by Nordic media players show that newspaper organizations receive two-thirds of their revenue from audience subscription. The remaining fraction is shared between subsidy and advertising. By observation, newspaper audience satisfaction or reading interest rests on politics and culture. Newspapers that are specialized in news segments are developing faster than those doing general news (visits to the Stiftstidende in Aarhus, Denmark and Fædrelandsvennen in Kristiansand, Norway by this author, have confirmed this).

Switch from FM to DAB

Norway is the first among the Nordic countries and the number one country in the world to switch from FM operation to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB). News report available at the independent newspaper’s website shows that despite government order for the switch-off since 2007, a few FM stations are still operating. Audiences are making a heyday of the DAB mostly in their vehicles and on their smartphones.

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TV License Fee in PSB

Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) reveals that public service broadcasters must be financed by the audience (public ownership) according to John Reith, the 1922 General Manager of the BBC. This means that it is members of the public that need to finance PSBs, not governments.

The license office of TV stations would have to move from house to house to collect the license fees. However, payment of license fees have been an albatross around the necks of countries and the Nordic countries have demonstrated a sharp move to remove the albatross. They have introduced a “Tax Model” whereby payment of the license fee is deducted from tax and this has been smoother than before.

Media Anchors, Lund and Lowe (2013) write that 95 percent of Danish households and in Norway, 91 percent of households while 88 percent in Sweden pay their license fee constantly.
Iceland and Finland introduced the tax model to a collect license fee in 2009 and 2013 respectively with businesses and industries paying behalf of their workers.

Challenges and Opportunities

Advertising in the newspaper industry is increasingly problematic due to the rising nature of online media patronage. It has declined since 2008. Advertising is reducing most newspapers in the rib by revenue and most of these organizations need to combine both manual and online works to maintain the status quo of advertising revenue.

For example, a visit to the Fædrelandsvennen in Kristiansand, Norway shows that 80 percent of its subscribers still prefer the printed copy of the newspaper and not digital, noting that two-thirds of its revenue comes from audience subscription while one-third comes from advertisement. There is a similar story for Stiftstidende Newspaper in the city of Aarhus, Denmark.

But it remains a challenge that some advertising agencies are likely to pay fewer advert fees online while they pay for the one published in the manual. Switching from FM to DAB will still be problematic to other countries due to signal absorption and because strengthening efforts with Norway could make matters easier for a shared lesson in the DAB experience.

Professor Øyvind Økland, a Norwegian professor of Intercultural Communication, believes that media consumption in the Nordic countries is growing stronger and stronger by the day. Media markets in the rest of the world could not afford to tap into this experience for a collective global success.

Joseph Kyei-Boateng is a journalist, communication consultant and MA candidate in Global Journalism at NLA University College, Norway.