Aftonbladet, Sweden’s most-read newspaper, has announced that it made more money from digital advertising than print for the whole of 2012. It is the first newspaper in Sweden to do this, “and probably in the world,” said its editor-in-chief and managing director Jan Helin in a blog post.
Advertising revenues at Sweden’s top tabloid were split 56% digital and 44% print for 2012. Overall, the paper reported a profit of €36.8million (SEK 312m), an announcement said. This is a small increase on 2011, when digital advertising was higher than print for seven months out of the year.
“It is historic and it is what makes Aftonbladet the market leader among Swedish newspapers and the leading publication through the structural transformation from analogue to digital,” said Helin.
Online ad revenue at the paper increased by 18%. The fastest growth was in mobile, where ad revenue was €8.8million (SEK 75m), three times as much as in 2011. Helin has previously said that he expects mobile to be the most-accessed form of Aftonbladet by 2014.
Helin sees the paper’s achievement as the second of three necessary milestones to pass to survive the digital transition. Aftonbladet passed the first in 2004 when its number of online readers overtook the number of print. It remains the only daily paper in Sweden for whom this is the case, Helin said, and two thirds of Aftonbladet’s 2.8m daily readers are now digital.
Passing this second milestone has involved working with commercial partners to build effective digital advertising products, and developing these will continue to be a key focus going forward, Helin said.
The third milestone will be when digital revenue alone will be able to support the entire costs of a powerful news operation, Helin said. Ad revenue plus the paper’s 159,000 digital subscribers, who have access to premium content, means that the paper is well on the way towards this.
One reason for Aftonbladet’s continuing success in growing its audience is the newsroom’s “story first” approach, Helin said at WAN-IFRA's Newsroom Summit conference in May 2012. Aftonbladet has also invested considerable resources in video, and offers several TV programmes each week.
Aftonbladet is not yet neglecting its paper product, however, and it remains the most read daily in print. “Aftonbladet's stated goal is that within the next few years to become an online company that also publishes a printed paper, as long as it is in demand and contributes financially," said Helin.
However, he wants to be ready for the future and encourages others to embrace change and be prepared to innovate. “Nobody in any industry has ever succeeded in coming through a paradigm shift by putting on the brakes," he wrote.