How Swedish MittMedia is moving local news coverage forward with hyper local app
Local news in the digital age isn’t dying, it’s actually getting even more hyper local. At least if the Swedish media group MittMedia has anything to say about it.
‘‘We are Sweden’s biggest local media group and local content is our most important business model,’’ Robin Govik, head of editorial business development at MittMedia, tells Smashdig in an email interview. ‘‘Our readers expect us to deliver local news.’’
Last week, the media group, which operates in the central parts of Sweden, released a new app used by its papers (each paper has its own version). The app has been Beta-tested since last summer and includes a number of new features. For example, users can now personalize what type of push notifications they want based on their location and topics of interest.
When looking at its online traffic, MittMedia realized readers wanted news from their own geographical area, Govik says.
If the media group manage to make the personalization work, its products will be seen as more relevant, he adds.
‘‘With the apps we can be even more local. For example, a break-in at my neighbour’s house is a major news event for me but it’s unimportant to someone living 100 kilometres away,’’ says Govik. ‘‘Today, local news sites are forced to base their selection [of what news stories to publish] on interest to the public. With the push notifications, we can be personal.’’
But not everyone thinks that apps might be the saviour of local newspapers, or any media company for that matter.
‘‘It sounds attractive to have an app, but there’s a lot that speaks against it being a good idea,’’ Fredrik Strömberg, co-founder and VP of product at KIT tells Smashdig in a November 2015 interview about the future of digital journalism. ‘‘If you look at the numbers from some of the American media companies that have apps they show good numbers and that the users are loyal and spend a lot of time in the app. But if the app doesn’t build a unique functionality you should probably think more than once if you should get into that.
‘‘American studies have shown that more than half [of the participants] see Facebook as their primary news source.’’
MittMedia would agree with some of the numbers presented in the reports referenced by Strömberg as the media group sees the apps as a way of creating a new digital audience.
‘‘We already have a very loyal circle of customers, especially in print,’’ Govik says. ‘‘It’s been harder to get that loyalty when it comes to digital. With the apps we will get to know our users better and get more loyal digital users.’’
And the digital business model is the way forward for the former print-focused MittMedia.
During a one-day conference, held at the Royal Library in Stockholm in June of 2015 (which this Smashdig reporter attended), MittMedia CEO Thomas Peterssohn told an audience of journalists and media executives that digital is the future of the journalism industry.
The media group is expanding its digital efforts by hiring more online reporters and putting a larger focus on online television.
MittMedia’s attempt to move its readers from print to digital and especially mobile with the new apps might come at just the right time.
A November report by Mediamentorerna shows the desktop model is dying. A number of Swedish newspapers have seen a rapid decline in its desktop audience as more and more people are reading news on their smartphones.
The annual report Svenskarna och internet, produced by Internetstiftelsen i Sverige (IIS), also points to a shift in media consumption as mobile use among Swedes is on the rise.
MittMedia is one of the last major media groups to continue to invest in covering local news. Today, 25 per cent of the Swedish municipalities lacks a newsroom, according to a report by Institutet för mediestudier.
However, the same report states more articles about local politics are being produced compared to the last couple of years.
And Govik thinks a number of local media outlets will use techniques similar to the one in MittMedia’s apps in bids to improve local coverage in the future.
‘‘Yes, absolutely. Our apps are based on meta data. That means that we don’t manually have to send out push notifications as it’s an automated process,’’ Govik says. ‘‘That’s a method I believe many others will adopt.’’MittMediaAppRobin Govik