#dendatameet notes - Oscar Westlund and mobile news

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 14 May 2010

On Wednesday I was at Vision+Media for the Digital Editors Network data meet-up, or #dendatameet as it got tagged online. I was giving a presentation which I ended up calling "IA. Data. Journalism. Stuff", although, obviously, the existence of a 'stuff' category suggested I hadn't done the IA's job of classifying the content very well.

Here are some of my notes from the day's final session:

Oscar Westlund: A helicopter view of mobile

Oscar Westlund opened up with an interesting graph showing usage of the print and digital products by Aftonbladet and Expressen, Sweden's two biggest evening tabloid papers.

Oscar Westland at #dendatameet

This showed that in the late 90s, print was the dominant medium. Then, in the early 2000s there was a period where it seemed that both print circulation and digital usage were rising. Now, however, it is clear that although it still provides 80% of revenue, print is in a major decline. The graph also showed Aftonbladet with a clear lead of Exspressen in digital usage.

When I did my overview of Winter Olympics coverage, I looked at both of these papers, and noted how similar they seemed to be in style, yet there appears to be one very clear winner in that market.

Sweden's Aftonbladet Sport front

Oscar's main analogy was that media companies have gone from fighting in one martial arts discipline, into some kind of 'winner takes all multi martial arts contest'. It is no good being the best traditional company doing thing x, if that still places you way down the list of everybody who is doing thing x. He cited Nintendo, who seem to have recently acknowledged that the biggest threat to them is not traditional fellow games platform manufacturer Sony, but the disruption caused by the Apple app store putting casual gaming into the hands of iPhone users.

I was reminded that during the recent election campaign, broadcasters and newspaper groups feverishly kept an eye on what their rivals were producing, but I'm not sure how many people paid attention to the fact that MSN had a live chat with the ex-Prime Minister, or that Asda had an 'election mums' blog.

Oscar's talk also reminded me of a presentation I saw in Miami at the IA Summit back in 2008. Jorgen Dalen and Tone Terum presented "Good news on your cell phone: Optimizing the user experience". Their study into mobile news consumption in Norway had shown the market to be very mature, albeit with problems that needed to be solved by 'smarter phones and more bandwidth'. I often think in the UK, because of our common language, we tend to focus very much on what American brands and companies are doing digitally, and neglect to learn lessons that can be gained from our European neighbours.

For example, at #dendatameet, Oscar explained that one of the papers in Sweden has a business model where you buy a subscription, and they send you vouchers via SMS. These text messages can then be used to pick up your newspaper at any participating store. It is an acknowledgment that people are more mobile, and want their paper subscription delivered directly to them, not directly to the building they usually live in.


Next week I'll have some more of my notes from the event.

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