The newspaper industry without question has been transformed by the Internet and the variety of ways (laptops, tablets, mobile phones) that readers have to access the news.
But if one needs proof that print isn’t dead, one only has to look at Sweden’s Direktpress, which has managed to efficiently integrate digital and print news production and maintain a hyper local focus that metro, national and international news organizations, and websites can’t beat.
Direktpress got its start in 1968 with the newspaper Östermalm New, one of Sweden’s first free newspapers. It began an expansion in 2004. That expansion has continued, with Direktpress adding 13 new weekly newspapers to its Stockholm portfolio just last year, taking the total to 29. Its circulation in the greater Stockholm area now is 850,000 copies a week. Direktpress publishes an additional nine newspapers serving cities such as Goteborg, Uppsala, Vasteras, Sigtuna/Knivsta and Enkoping. With 38 newspapers boasting a total circulation of 1.2 million, Direktpress reaches about 13 percent of Sweden’s population, a percentage unprecedented in the United States.
Helene Claesson, Direktpress editor-in-chief, attributes its success to its intense focus on local news and the innovative ways Direktpress has integrated digital and print production to reach readers through any medium they desire.
Currently, Direktpress aggregates its Stockholm-area content on stockholmdirekt.se. Claesson said Direktpress plans to build similar websites in Gothenburg and Vasteras this year. That content finds its way to the 29 individual print newspapers published on Saturdays.
Claesson said the goal has been “to find a way to work that ends up in a good print product in the end of the week and a constant flow of stories on the website.”
According to Claesson, Direktpress went to Roxen, a developer of Web-based editorial and content management tools for multi-channel publishing. “We really needed a good website, but we knew that we didn’t have the money to hire new reporters,” she said. “The challenge (was) to find a workflow that works for a weekly deadline and constant deadlines at the same time…we had to find a way to make the reporters do two things at the same time—write for print and Web.”
Roxen’s solution was an editorial portal for Direktpress that allows a reporter to prepare a story for print and the Web in one single process.
“In the Roxen editorial portal, the reporter writes his story in a template—for the print—and then he also publishes the story on the website with just another two, three clicks,” Claesson said. “Maybe the story develops during the week, so we publish another two, three articles on the subject. On Thursday, the editor makes one story out of it. Maybe he takes some reader comments from the website and publishes them together with the article in the print product.”
Initially, Direktpress had worked with two systems, Roxen REP for print and Episerver for Web publishing. “That was not so good,” Claesson said. “We wanted the reporters and editors to work in one system.” The decision to use Roxen’s REP and Web publishing systems made that possible.
Claesson said the transition to a complete Roxen system was easy. “It was a very quick transformation when we first changed to Roxen. Reporters had maybe two days of training. Then we had Roxen-people on the floor for support for maybe a week. After that, we trained ‘super users’ that could help their colleagues. The super users get constant training in Roxen matters.”
“We have a close relationship with Roxen, which makes it easy to make the system work the way we want,” Claesson added. “They understand the challenges we have and help us to develop both workflows and use the system.”
Johan Hansson, Roxen’s executive vice president/Americas, has worked in media in the United States for a number of years, overseeing free daily newspapers published by Metro in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Hansson said news organizations here and abroad face the same challenges.
However, Hansson said, “I would say that the digital transformation has come further along in Scandinavia. There is a greater adaption of technology to automate manual and repetitive tasks to free up journalistic resources for content creation. Even the smallest newsroom has over the last years gone from being a once-a-day or once-a-week publication to a 24/7 news outlet populating multiple channels. At the same time they have had to manage this transition with fewer resources than ever before.”
Hansson said one of the biggest threats to news traditional news organizations comes from startups with a digital-only focus. “They have a much higher adaptation of tech solutions and are often producing more content at a lower cost due to technological advances, higher productivity and no legacy costs.”
Hansson called Schibsted, a Norwegian newspaper publisher, an example of a legacy news organization that is meeting the challenge. “Schibsted is said to be hiring over 100 engineers across Europe to develop their own CMS platform with a modular approach, much like what we at Roxen believe in,” he said. A modular approach makes it easier for a publisher to add and replace third-party solutions as needed without making major changes to its publishing system.
Roxen is focusing on smaller publishers that don’t have the resources to develop their own systems. Now Direktpress is working closely with Roxen on online strategies and other projects that will improve traffic, efficiency and keep reporters on the street in the neighborhoods they cover. One project is a mobile app that will allow reporters to use their smartphones with a cordless keyboard connected via Bluetooth to write stories. They then can take photos and shoot videos and post it all on the website directly from the app in real-time.
In other words, journalists can remain on the go in the places they cover without returning to a newsroom to write a story. It can’t get more local than that, which is what Direktpress is all about.
Henry E. Scott is a journalist and newspaper and online business executive who provides consulting services to print and digital media.