“Podcasts have been a part of our portfolio for many years,” Kestler said, adding that Politiken was the first in Denmark to do a daily podcast, which they continue to offer Monday to Friday.
Amalie Kestler, Managing Editor in Chief of Politiken, speaking at Newsroom Summit, Oslo, in late October. Photo by saycheeze.no for WAN-IFRA.
“We really want to be a platform for high quality podcasts, and this is what is going to take a lot of our time in the years to come,” she said.
“We are looking forward to this because we believe that podcasts are a way to give a boost to the value proposition, and it’s also building a bridge to subscribers,” Kestler added.
Moving focus from print to digital, and bringing paying customers along
Founded in 1884, and published by JP/Politikens Hus, Politiken has won many international awards for its journalism. It has also been recognised by the Society for News Design as among the World’s Best Designed Newspapers, winning this top award three times since 2006.
Kestler started working at Politiken a decade ago, in 2013.
“Back then we were really struggling with how to make a business on the digital content,” she said. “We tried different models, but we made a big decision in 2017, which was to have one access across all platforms.”
Readers got full access to everything but they had to pay the price, and a fairly steep one at that.
“This was actually quite a brave decision, and I can say that because I was not a part of it,” Kestler said.
It was Politiken’s editor in chief, Christian Jensen, at the time relatively new, who decided to take the paper in this direction, she said.
While there was some initially uncertainty about how readers would respond, it soon became clear the majority of them accepted the new deal.
“It turned out that the readers absolutely did want to pay for our content,” she said.
As a result, this access-everything-for-one-price plan remains Politiken’s subscription model today.
‘We’ve doubled our digital revenues in the last four years’
The money from subscribers provided a stable revenue stream, ensuring financial stability for Politiken as it undertook its digital transformation in recent years.
“We want to – and still do – create a beautiful paper, that’s very important to us. But we needed to shift the focus of the day,” she said.
Like so many other legacy print news publishers around the world, Politiken’s focus and workflows were heavily centred on producing the print product.
“This was a problem when there is so much time and resources going to the print production you actually miss out on evolving the digital products for consumers who are getting pickier every year. We wanted to change that dynamic,” Kestler said.
Planning tools and article templates to streamline workflows
They made significant changes, including rearranging their newsroom, and developing an in-house planning tool that is now used by everyone in editorial. This tool mandates discussions between journalists and editors about article lengths and overall story development before work begins.
In addition, they created some 400 article templates that can quickly repurpose any story from digital to print without reworking the text, something that Kestler noted was previously extremely time consuming.
None of the transformation was easy, she added, but much of the heavy lifting is now behind them, even though there is still work to be done. And most importantly, there are some clear signs of success.
“We were able to make a difficult transformation and still keep our revenues. We’ve doubled our digital revenues in the last four years,” she said.
Moving ahead, Politiken’s podcast and sound-related developments in general will play a greater role for them.
“Sound is really important to us and will become even more important,” Kestler said.
For example, users can choose to listen to articles rather than read them.
“We have a both an automated version as well as journalists themselves reading aloud,” she said. “For the podcasts we do, journalists can go into a sound chamber and readers have the ability to listen to the article read to them while they are on transport or biking, etc.”
While Politiken still values its print newspaper, the company’s path going forward is much clearer than it was only a few short years ago. And they are now in a much better position to deliver the kinds of content experiences that today’s digital-first generation demands and expects.
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