Scandinavian newspapers are doing lots of things right

My recent trip to meet with several newspaper folks in Scandinavia was great. Every single time I go to Europe for something like this, I get so much out of it.

I kept asking the folks who had brought me there why they had asked me to come talk with their newspaper staffs because they all were doing so many great new-media things really well. They didn’t need any help or suggestions from me!

And these aren’t huge newspapers. Most were right around the 50,000-circ level or lower.

The common theme of these newspapers is that they all are partners in something called Citygate, which is a newspaper-owned technology group that helps all of these newspapers with new-media strategy and enterprise software.

Let me go over some of the highlights:


On my first day in Sweden, I got to visit with the folks from Östgöta Correspondenten, in Linköping.

One thing that I found very interesting is that all of the newspapers I visited have full names, and shorter names that everyone really calls them. No one called this newspaper Östgöta Correspondenten. Everyone just called it Corren.

This shouldn’t be a huge surprise to anyone, but one of my favorite projects at Corren was the newspaper’s amazing coverage of its schools’ local proms.

They had formal photos of every single person who attended the proms, but my favorite thing they did was shoot the dances.

Now these aren’t dances like you would see at proms in the United States. These were very formal dances that had been rehearsed every Saturday during the school year. It looked like incredibly choreographed ballroom dances.

And Corren shot the dances with multiple cameras, and then edited them very, very well.

Of course, all of this was posted on the newspaper’s website, but the paper also released all of this coverage in DVD format, which has already sold more than 700 copies.

It’s really, really great coverage that was incredibly well done. And Jörgen Bengtsson, the leader of the web department at Corren, told me the traffic to the coverage has been really strong — that nearly all of the dance videos had been viewed about as many times as what a big local breaking story might get on the site.

(I don’t have a link to this project right now, but I will try to get one soon.)


On the next day, I visited Vestmanlands Läns Tidning in Västeras. Again, no one calls the newspaper Vestmanlands Läns Tidning. It’s simply called VLT.

Again, I saw a lot of really great things at this newspaper, and the buy-in for new-media coverage at VLT from its editor-in-chief — Elisabeth Back — was really impressive. It reminded of the buy-in we had at the Naples Daily News from Executive Editor Phil Lewis.

I learned in Naples that the easiest way to new-media success was to have great buy-in from the top editor, and we had that in Naples. They also have that at VLT.

The VLT newspaper building was amazing.

One of the ideas of the newspaper is that it “reflects” the community, so when they built their new building, they made the building actually reflect the community. It was one of the best and most interesting newspaper buildings I’ve ever seen.

Now that’s taking a mission statement and really taking it into the real world!

This week, VLT built a huge section with lots of multimedia coverage of something called a Power Meet. From what I could gather, the Power Meet is essentially a massively huge car show.

But one of my favorite things at VLT was how the newspaper used cell phone text messaging to get content (which I think is way more common in Sweden than in the United States).

You see this all over the VLT site, as well as in the print edition.

But my favorite reference to this strategy is right on the front of the newspaper’s building, where there is a huge sign with the number on it.

I love that!

After sitting in a meeting with members of the VLT staff, I’m convinced this is a local news site that our industry is going to want to pay attention to over the next year or so.


The final newspaper that I visited in Sweden was Nerikes Allehanda in Örebro.

Yep, you’ve probably already guessed it by now. No one calls the newspaper Nerikes Allehanda. They just call it NA.

Before I talk about this newspaper, I’ve got to show you its building:

I remember the first time I saw the Chicago Tribune building and thinking how traditional and cool that it felt. Well, the NA newspaper building takes that “traditional feeling” and really amps it up a notch.

There actually is a real, honest-to-goodness castle right across the water from the NA building.

I can’t even imagine how cool it would be to walk past those sorts of things as you walked to work each day!

Just like at VLT, the editor-in-chief at NA has amazing buy-in for new media. His name is Ulf Johansson, and he’s a real go-getter who moves quickly. I loved the guy!

In fact, he just re-designed the entire news desks so that all of the main print and new-media editors would be together.

So imagine walking into this very historic-looking building and then seeing a newsroom that looks like it’s out of Star Trek.

It was awesome!

Yes, it’s very reminiscent of the Tampa Tribune newsdesk or the newsdesk at the Lawrence Journal-World. But when you put that sort of newsroom in a building that looks like the NA building does, well then you’re doing something a little different!


My favorite project that I saw while I was on this trip wasn’t from a newspaper. In fact, it wasn’t even from a traditional news organization.

And to me, there is a *huge* lesson to be learned from this project.

There is a magazine in Copenhagen, Denmark, that is published by one of the labor unions there. The leader of the magazine there is an extremely talented guy named Jesper Berg.

Jesper calls himself a “media conductor,” which might be the most appropriate (not to mention, coolest) title ever.

The union’s magazine was producing a story about how a worker cleaning lights/windows at the top of the building was severely injured when he fell. To tell the story, the magazine staff put together one of the most interesting examples of multimedia storytelling I’ve ever seen.

The link to it is here.

Jesper admits he loved the design of a recent project at so much that the look of this project is very similar to that. This project has all of the standard new-media tools, such as video, photo slideshows and steerable 360-degree panoramic photos.

But the most impressive part of the coverage is an animated re-creation of the accident.

Not even the most eloquent writer could have explained what happened as well as that animation does. It’s very powerful and very well done.

The lesson here is simple: If newspapers don’t get off their butts and start embracing this sort of storytelling, then the very folks we normally cover will just do it themselves.

If you don’t believe me, spend about 15 minutes on the site for your closest Major League Baseball team, and then tell me if the hometown newspaper for that team covers the team as well or as deep.

I’ve always been impressed with these official sites, and I’ve been bugging the Newspaper Association of America for several years to put together a panel at one if its conferences with the folks behind, and, but to no avail.

I think it would shock the heck out of most editors at not only how good these sites are, but how large the traffic to them is.

This past winter, I was amazed at how good the blog by Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas was on the team’s official site. (Though it’s much more of an online diary than a blog. Readers can’t post comments.)

The NHL’s Washington Capitals are owned by a big-wig from AOL, so you know that team’s site kicks some serious backside.

And then there’s this union in Denmark doing something like this.

As I said before, I learned a ton on this trip, and I’m positive I got more out of it than any group I spoke with got out of my little spiel.

Scandinavian news organizations are doing lots of things right when it comes to new-media storytelling, and I’m convinced we ought to be paying more attention to what the newspaper industry outside of the United States is doing.


And if you’re really bored …

Here is another link to photos taken on my camera phone from the second half of our trip (Stockholm and Paris). Yes, I fully expect to be made fun of because of how much time we spent at Disneyland Paris while we were in France.

We can’t help it! Our family loves Disney.

And if you missed it from my previous blog, here is link to photos from the first half of the trip (Copenhagen, Denmark).

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Dad. Journalist. Nerd. Music lover. Baseball fan. Puckhead.