Newsner pulls ahead in Sweden's viral war.Photo: Newsner

Newsner pulls ahead in Sweden’s viral war

Publicerad: 02 August 2015, kl. 9:18

Newsner went up against Aftonbladet and Expressen. You can probably believe what happened next.

‘‘We are of course extremely proud of this,’’ says Newsner’s publisher, Johan Rikner.

Adam Jönsson

Last year, the viral news market in Sweden exploded. Tabloids Aftonbladet and Expressen launched Lajkat and Omtalat within a few weeks of each other. Soon thereafter Newsner, another viral site, followed suit.

Barely a year into the fight, Newsner has come out on top. In the middle of May, the site broke its own page view record with two consecutive weeks of more than two million unique browsers across all platforms. Lajkat and Omtalat are both reaching just over a million unique browsers per week, according to the KIA-index from June of this year.

Foto: Skärmdump/

Omtalat. Photo: Screen dump/Expressen

Unlike Expressen and Aftonbladet, who are traditional media companies (owned by Bonnier and Schibsted), Newsner was founded by the digital marketing agency Nyheter365.

The sites also differ in tone. Lajkat and Omtalat are similar to BuzzFeed whereas Newsner takes more of an ‘‘UpWorthy approach,’’ which includes headlines such as ‘‘A couple adopted two kids. When they meet my heart melts. So much love.’’

‘‘One thing we did was that we presented stories in somewhat of a new way in Sweden since we saw that it worked,’’ says Rikner during a Stockholm media conference in the beginning of June. ‘‘We had more colloquial headlines. We were more personal. We took a stand.’’

Newsner founder Johan Rikner. Foto: Press

Newsner founder Johan Rikner. Photo: Press

In early June, Newsner launched a campaign together with animal rights organization Djurens Rätt. People can pledge to boycott circuses featuring wild animals by using the hashtag #IntePåCirkus (#NotAtCircus) on social media. Newsner and Djurens Rätt are also urging the Swedish government to pass a law banning wild animals to be used in circus shows.

‘‘This is a cause we’re really invested in. It’s incomprehensible that there isn’t a ban against wild animals at circuses in Sweden in 2015,’’ says Newsner editor Stefan Persson in a press release. 

More than 60,000 signed the petition during the first week of the campaign, Newsner says in an email.

Different target audiences

The target audiences for the three sites are different too. Omtalat and Lajkat are both fighting over the younger demographic.

Lajkat, for example, aims for Swedes in the ages between 15-25 and tailors its content around that demographic, publisher Ehsan Fadakar tells Smashdig.

Newsner, on the other hand, is aiming for a broader audience. The site’s key demographic is 45-55-year-olds active on Facebook, Rikner told Nieman Lab in a December 2014 interview. Around 95 per cent of Newsner’s traffic comes from the social networking site.

However, Newsner is not the core business of Nyheter365 – nor is Lajkat and Omtalat the main centre of attention at Aftonbladet and Expressen. These viral sites are rather additional revenue streams for the companies running them.

Criticized but helpful

The sites, perhaps Lajkat in particular, have been criticized for, among other things, taking too lightly on other media companies’ copyright.

Lajkat. Foto: Skärmdump/Aftonbladet

Lajkat. Photo: Screen dump/Aftonbladet

But Rikner admits Newsner has helped Nyheter365 to attract new clients as the viral site points at digital prowess.

Nyheter365’s core business is native advertising and branded content – an online advertising method that follows the style of the platform on which it’s published. Newsner is, to a certain extent, working as a native advertising platform for Nyheter365.

Every sponsored article goes through thorough analysis and is presented in a way that benefits both the client and the reader, Rikner says.

One example is an article sponsored by the travel company Apollo where Newsner lists the 11 best water amusement parks in the world. The article is informing the readers, but is simultaneously directing them to book a trip through the travel company.

Newsner features a couple of ads on its home page and inside the articles. But the digital marketing agency believes native advertising is the future. The site aims to get rid of the classic ads in just a few months.

‘‘Our belief is that native advertising doesn’t bother [the reader], gives better results [for advertisers] and that means media companies can make more money,’’ says Rikner. ‘‘We hope we’ve gotten rid of all classic banner ads by January.’’

[A version of this article appeared on Smashdig’s sister site,, on June 17, 2015.]

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