Avisen.dk: Newspaper Without Paper, Doing Well
These days, many U.S. newspaper publishers are trying to calculate how long they can keep their papers afloat. Those who have already done this calculation are also trying to calculate whether or not a pure Internet-only edition could survive on its own.
One example that may be interesting following is the Danish free paper Nyhedsavisen, which recently went bankrupt after heavy competition with all the major media companies in Denmark. Despite the bankruptcy, its site Avisen.dk survived and is doing pretty well.
Nyhedsavisen was launched by Icelandic investors and at one point became the most-read paper in Denmark. But the Icelandic owners didn't have enough money to outlast the fierce competition that forced advertising rates down. They were forced to give the paper away, for free, to information technology investor Morten Lund -- who then went under on Sept. 1.
Freeway, the present owner, continues to run Avisen.dk. Freeway runs a number of sites, including Denmark's most popular youth community Arto.dk, as well as Dating.dk. Freeway sites often manage to pull in a billion page views per month -- in a country with just five million inhabitants.
Freeway is presently negotiating with Newspaq (a news agency with about 20 employees) for continued maintenance of Avisen.dk.
Naturally, Avisen.dk's number of users has dropped. But even though the site was barely maintained at all for quite some time, a surprising number of users keep coming back. And it's a younger audience.
Two weeks ago Newspaq took over the site, and they're running it with a minimum of staff. Newspaq CEO Kristoffer Gravgaard claims advertisement revenues are now higher than when Nyhedsavisen was around. When I talked to him, he was more than confident that the online-only newspaper would survive.
"We have tried to move the site from a fairly tabloid position toward a younger audience," he said. "We cover subjects like mobile phones, crime, bicycle traffic and youth economy. And we're leaving out a lot of the predictable stories with little relevance to our readers."
Based on his experience from Nyhedsavisen, he recognizes that the paper's brand awareness is a great advantage for the Avisen.dk site. His optimism for Avisen.dk extends beyond mere survival: "I'm certain it's possible for U.S. papers to build excellent businesses on the Web."
While calculating 2009-2010 budgets, it may be a good idea for U.S. newspaper publishers to check back with Avisen.dk every once in a while to see how it's doing. Monthly statistics in the Danish Market may be found at FDIM.