The corona pandemic has had a major impact on the Nordic news media. At the same time as advertising revenues have fallen drastically, interest among the audience for professional news coverage has increased, according to a new report from Nordicom at the University of Gothenburg. Several Nordic media companies have also reported record sales of digital subscriptions as a result of the pandemic.
Covid-19 swept over the Nordic region and the rest of the world with full force in the spring of 2020. A year later, the pandemic still has the world in a strong grip. However, both the health-related and the economic consequences of the virus have varied between the Nordic countries. The same goes for the political response.
There are also differences within the Nordic region when it comes to the consequences of the pandemic for the media sector. Nordicom at the University of Gothenburg has, on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers, mapped the development of the private news media during the pandemic year of 2020. The study was carried out in collaboration with media researchers from all the Nordic countries.
"The national markets for professional news media in the Nordic region all have their unique structure, with a large variation in terms of size, range, financing models and financial strength. The view of state support for private media also looks different in the Nordic countries. An extensive economic and societal crisis - such as the corona pandemic - exposes many of these differences", says Ida Willig, professor at Roskilde University and one of the editors behind the report.
Falling advertising revenue but increased revenue from the audience
The rapid slowdown in the Nordic economies during the spring of 2020 immediately led to a dramatic decline in the willingness to invest in the Nordic advertising markets. The fall in advertising was particularly large in printed newspapers, where the decline in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden amounted to around 25 per cent in 2020. This corresponds to a loss of revenue of about EUR 290 million. At the same time, investment in online advertising increased in three out of four countries.
"The restrictions following the pandemic have changed the behaviour of the advertising market in a very significant way. While many physical stores have had a difficult time, online shopping has grown strongly, which has increased interest in advertising online. This is a development that has benefited global advertising platforms such as Google and Facebook and disadvantaged national and local advertising media", says Jonas Ohlsson, director of Nordicom.
At the same time as the private news media have found it increasingly difficult to retain their advertisers, the opposite has happened in the audience market. In 2020, a significant increase in the reach of news media of various kinds was reported from all the Nordic countries - not least online.
The increased interest in news has also led to an increased willingness to pay for the digital content of the news media. The results of the report point to a clear increase in the proportion of households in the Nordic countries that choose to pay for news online.
"The professional news media have played an important role in the pandemic, both to disseminate information and to scrutinize political decisions. Several studies also show that trust in the Nordic news media's coverage has increased in 2020. The fact that more Nordic people have chosen to pay for news is a sign that professional journalism has strengthened its position among the audience during the pandemic", says Ida Willig.
Record-high state support
The dramatic fall in the advertising market in the spring of 2020 was followed by an intense debate on special support measures for the media sector in the Nordic region. The result of this was direct state support for private news media in all Nordic countries during 2020. In total, this amounted to a record amount of EUR 275 million, about a third of which consisted of special pandemic support.
However, the differences between the Nordic countries were large. In relation to population size, direct support for private news media was about ten times larger in Sweden and Denmark than it was in Finland in 2020.
"The Nordic media system has historically been characterised by an active media policy, which has involved both a large publicly funded public service sector and special support measures for private news media. Over the past decade, this model has become increasingly politicised, and the Nordic countries have increasingly chosen different paths in the formulation of national media policy. The influx of audiences to both the public service and the private news media during the pandemic has shown the value of the Nordic model. It gives increased topicality to media policy issues even after the pandemic", says Jonas Ohlsson.
Download the report Covid-19 and the Nordic News Media (in Danish/Norwegian/Swedish) here: https://www.nordicom.gu.se/sv/publikationer/covid-19-och-de-nordiska-nyhetsmedierna
The report will be presented at a webinar on Thursday 22 April at 1 p.m. (CEST) arranged by The Nordic Council of Ministers. For more information and registration: https://norden.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_y3gmIhWHRuusqFb75N41QQ
(The webinar will be held in Danish/Norwegian/Swedish).
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