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August 2006
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October 2006

On flogging a dead sheep

Yes, I'm talking about Bloggulf the lamb preparing for his 'responsibility' to become lamb-and-cabbage-stew again, and no, I'm not paid to aid the viral marketing campaign for the Government office trying this unusual approach to get people to eat more meat (and here I was thinking that it was more vegetables the Government wanted us to eat but that's maybe the cabbage part of the traditional meal). However, I was fascinated to read that the commercial bloggers behind the campaign attracted 35 000 friends for Bloggulf in the blog's first week online, aided by placing advertisement and banners liberally on different sites and in online papers

"Let the bloodbath begin"

Strong words from Aftonbladet's head of information, Olof Brundin, ahead of Monday's launch of the Schibsted-owned newspaper's new freesheet Punkt se. The new freebie joins an increasingly crowded market, though the battle between the Swedish freesheets so far is on a much smaller scale than the ongoing Danish freesheet war. "We who have seen the finished product feel incredibly safe that we will win this war... That Metro chooses to call us the Donald Duck-newspaper is a compliment," he told Dagens Media, alluding to Walt Disney's immense success with the popular cartoon character. However, Schibsted is expecting to loose £13,5m on the new venture before it breaks even, and though the company's freesheets 20 Minutes and 20 Minutos are market leaders in France and Spain, the titles combined loss amounted to almost £7m last year.

So it's goodbye...

Not to a champion of investigative journalism, nor to the idea that there's room for a hard hitting, controversial news magazine in the Norwegian media market. Rather, it's goodbye to a news magazine that simply didn't make enough of a difference. Shelved at the end of last week, Memo was launched in March this year with much ado about new and different angles and promises of daring journalism, but never came close to living up to all the things it promised to be. If it had, it would have been a much sadder goodbye.


As it was, Memo was too similar to its main competitor, left-leaning Ny Tid, and a far cry from the esteemed magazines it was compared to before its launch, such as The Economist. Its former editor, Kristine Moody, was indeed a fresh breath in the Norwegian media landscape, but when she left her position earlier this month, amid speculations that she was simply 'too different' for Memo's left-leaning publisher, Dagbladet, I couldn't see how bringing in a hack from Dagbladet would do anything to help distinguishing the title from Ny Tid. In a bigger economy, like the UK, there may be room for several news magazines from the same side of the political spectrum, but hardly in a country of about 4,5 million citizens – unless we were all diehard leftists and avid news magazine readers.

My initial reaction to the news was that the end of Memo was just another proof of the futility of that Keynsian idea that you can spend your way out of a recession, and how there's no way all the new supplements and magazines recently flooded onto the market, in order to persuade people of the virtue of print over internet, can possible survive. But, at the end of the day, Memo was simply an unfocused, over-hyped and too indistinct product to find a big enough audience in the small Norwegian market.

Veggie Blogging

Just after I wrote about the rather bizarre blog of Bloggulf, the sheep who's longing to become lamb-stew, I stumbled across this piece of news about Winston-Salem Journal's online newspaper launching a veggie blog (been too busy to blog about it until now). And that in a city that doesn't even have one vegetarian restaurant! An excellent example of how blogging allows newspapers to cover niche topics that may not be in the mainstream, according to Bloggers Blog.

We're all peasants

... despite what other things Norwegians may pretend to be. This new viral marketing campaign further proves my point: it's the first viral marketing campaign in Norway that I'm aware of, and, big surprise, it's about the value of agricultural products. More specifically it's a blog about a sheep who is looking forward to meeting his preordained faith as sheep-and cabbage-stew (my best translation of 'fårikål', but open for other suggestions), authored by some Government office devoted to teaching Norwegians the value of eating meat. Link via Vampus.

Freesheets invade Scandinavia

Some seven free papers are currently fighting for advertisment revenues in the Danish freesheet war, one more is due to launch 6 October, and now the freesheet craze has hit Sweden as well.

Last week Bonnier launched two regional editions of its freesheet City Stockholm in Malmö and Gothenburg to counter Schibsted's plans of rolling out a new freesheet to the same cities 2 October. It's also speculated that Göteborg Posten (GP) will launch a new freesheet to defend its territory in Gothenburg – and then of course there's the pionering free commuter daily Metro to be reckoned with.

Good thing then, that Swedish freesheets are mostly printed on Swedish paper. At the start of the Danish freesheet war, Greenpeace expressed worries that all the new free papers would deplete Finnish forests. The organisation reckons some 40 per cent of Danish newspaper paper is sourced from Finnish forests:

"We argue that we should shift our paper source to Sweden, where 95% of the forests are FSC-certified, to make sure that the increase in paper usage is not paid for by the Sami people or the biodiversity in Finnish forests. We encourage people to buy FSC-certified paper as this ensures legality: we know that it has been logged legally, sustainably - that biodiversity is maintained and trees replanted – and it guarantees the participation and agreement of local people. Lots of wood that has been logged illegally in Russia come through Finland," Mads Christensen, Greenpeace's nordic campaign director, told me.

In Norway, Orkla Media, soon to become Mecome Europe, is currently fighting a court battle against the former proprietor of two small local Oslo freesheets it has acquired (the complaintant argues Orkla owes him more money). The company operates a number of local freesheets in the Oslo-area, but these only cover some districts of Oslo, which, with its 550,000 citizens, is a small city.

However, rumours of new freesheets abound, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Since Norway is the self-proclaimed world champion of environmentalism, and, truth be told, is not lagging too far behind when it comes to world records for rules and regulations either, I assume it might take quite a while before potential new freesheets would be approved by all the right authorities – and who knows what innovative new laws the Government could come up with if the Greens are too worried about the environmental impact, that is, if our culture minister doesn't decide the benefits to local democracy outweigh the costs to the environment.

Tabloid has more readers online than on paper

Not surprisingly, tabloid readership is in steady decline according to the latest readership figures. Print readership is down overall, and for the first time in history more people read Dagbladet online than on paper. Now the latter at least is a success story of sorts, and Dagbladet's online media operation, DB Medialab, is even making money: with a profit margin of 26,6 per cent last year it was ranked as Norway's sixth most profitable media company in a recent survey by Dagens Medier.

Just too much

The latest readership figures are out, and among the losers, surprise, surprise, are the weekend papers. Despite increases in spending and editorial resources, readership figures for the measured Saturday editions are down four per cent, Sunday editions down six per cent. Knut Arne Furusaeter from TNS Gallup told Kampanje that all the new supplements are to blame: the weekend papers are thicker than ever, and people buy fewer papers as there's simply not enough time to read it all. The overall number of people who read one newspaper daily are down seven per cent from the record year 1997, but the decline is biggest for weekend papers, Monday papers and weekend magazines (big tick in my book to Kampanje for linking to the actual survey and figures).

All that paper

As more and more people get their news online, newspapers in this country have flooded the market with all kinds of featurey magazines, mostly included with the various editions of the papers, to impress upon their readers the added value of print over internet. Ironically, the success of online media has actually encouraged more in-depth, and sometimes even more investigative, reporting on paper - the thinking being that readers may skim their news online, but surely they still prefer to have the longer reads on paper. The only minor problem with this strategy is that people's preference for getting their news online often reflects a more hectic everyday life, where time is a rare luxury, and skimming the news online is simply the quickest way of keeping up-to-date.

So when Kristine Moody resigned as editor of standalone news magazine Memo recently, citing a desire to 'spend more time with her family', Dagbladet's Andreas Wiese speculated that it wasn't only the editors of such magazines who where struggling to find enough time, but perhaps also their prospective readers, who in Memo's case, have failed to materialise in the desired quantities. Of course others have speculated that Moody, a former Financial Times trainee and CNBC commentator, was 'too different to be accepted by Norwegian press' and was forced to leave because her right-wing sympathies didn't sit well with Memo's left-wing publisher Dagbladet. Exponents of that theory have suggested that the magazine's next editor will be someone in-house, who subscribes to Dagbladet's overall values. For all I know, that might sit better with Memo's editorial staff, but I wonder what would then distinguish Memo, who burst onto the media scene a few months ago with loud promises of 'new and unusual angles', from its main competitor, left leaning news magazine, Ny Tid.

Blog coverage from election night in Sweden

The exit polls show that Sweden is likely to get a new government after today's parliamentary election. According to The Local's eminent election night blog, British Conservative Michael Trend was among the invited international guests at the Moderate Party HQ: "If he [opposition leader Fredrik Reinfeldt] wins, and according to the exit polls, he will, then I am going to call David Cameron the British Fredrik Reinfeldt," he told The Local.
To my mind, a blog is the perfect way to cover such an event and gives a much more genuine sense of the atmosphere than the ready-scripted TV interviews I've seen from the election night so far.

Updated results here.

Not bent on self-destruction after all

I don't remember quite how I acquired my penchant for coffee, but I do know how unfulfilled I feel if I don't have at least two cups of the black stuff in the morning, and a few more throughout the day. I have felt at times, especially on tired Sunday mornings when I only started feeling human after the fifth cup, that I was brewing my own undoing by savouring huge amounts of a drink that's been linked to everything from cancer to heart attacks. So I was heartened to read this morning that it's the doom mongers that have been wrong all this time, whereas I have been taking exceptionally good care of my health. Just listen to this: "Coffee is more efficient than fruit and vegetables in preventing the oxidation of DNA, the source of a number of serious illnesses," and "based on current knowledge a heavy consumer can safely continue to indulge."

Sweden's 'Watergate': the true account at last?

In today's interview with Dagens Nyheter, Per Jodenius says he was ordered to give Expressen's reporter, Niklas Svensson, the log-in details to the Social Democrats' intranet so Svensson could dig up dirt on Sweden's governing party.

The Liberal party activist, who was expelled from the party with immediate effect when news of the scandal broke, says he might as well tell the truth now that he no longer has anything to lose. His story is supported by Svensson: "I was given the information to find scandals about the Social Democrats. That was the purpose and it was explained in that way by my source," he said. Jodenius insists he got the log-in details from a colleague, who claims he got them from a friend, who says an activist in the Social Democrats' youth party (SSU) divulged them to him (puh!)

A Swedish blogger decided to check out for herself if it was possible to 'hack' the Social Democrats' intranet from the parking lot outside a SSU office, which some have speculated was how Jodenius obtained access to the intranet in the first place, and concluded that this was simply not possible (link via Johan Norberg). This further supports my speculations of last week that the whole scandal could have been manufactured by SSU, but I'm not normally a big fan of conspiracy theories so not sure what got into me that particular morning.

A visual guide to Swedish Politics

For those who need to brush up on Swedish politics before Sunday's parliamentary election, here's an unusual representation of the political parties' actual voting records and alignments in parliament. It shows that despite Sweden's multi-party system, overall politics is 1-2 dimensional like British Politics, and, as one would expect, it reveals a tendency to converge towards the centre (or huddling up as close as possible to the perceived median voter as I like to phrase it). Via Andart.


Is Sweden's 'Watergate' a manufactured scandal?

In an election there's always so much spin floating around that it can be hard to decipher what's really going on, but here's an interesting thought: what if the 'hacking-scandal' was all manufactured by an ingenious, or not so ingenious, soul in the Social Democrat's youth party (SSU)?

Intriguing conspiracy-thoughts
Svenska Dagbladet has talked to a number of IT-experts who all say it beggars belief that the data intrusion, which had been going on for almost a year, wasn't discovered until now: then SSU's data security would surely have to be abysmal. SSU's spokesmen, on the other hand, say it's because the Liberal Party activists used the log-in details of SSU activists, who used the system all the time, that the intrusion wasn't discovered sooner. The Liberal party activist who first got hold of these details claims a SSU activist divulged them to him because he thought using a nick name both as password and username was very funny. The SSU activist in question vehemently denies this: as he would, it would probably spell the end of his political career. But what if he passed on those details knowing that the temptation to use them would be too big to resist, only to 'reveal' the intrusion at a convenient point in the election campaign, knowing that the Liberal Party activist would have no way of proving how he got hold of the details?

Just plain ol' hacking
That would be an intriguing scenario, though Aftonbladet provides another explanation for how the Liberal Party activists got hold of the log-in details. This one is not so gratifying for them: the paper speculates that they hacked SSU's computer network from the parking lot outside the SSU offices in Skövde, clearly a criminal offence and exactly what the data intrusion currently is being treated as.

Name calling
Since it's election time, this scandal has been called by a plethora of bad names and phrases. Marita Ulvskog, the Social Democrats party secretary has even compared Leijonborg, the Liberal Party leader, to a rapist, a comparison that caused an outcry in the Swedish feminist part. So now they all have something to talk about, while I, who wrote this in the wee hours, before I even had my first cup of coffee, but failed to post it until now due to other pressing deadlines, should maybe have kept my mouth shut... ah, well....

To merge or not, part II

How convenient that I didn't start writing about this proposed merger before it hit the final stages: if I had I'd be on part xxx. The only firm decision reached yesterday was that Adresseavisa, as expected, opted out of the merger. The other parties will continue the negotiations. In doing so, Bergens Tidene (BT) is acting against the will of Mecom, the papers' biggest shareholder (28,5pc), who would see their majority position in BT reduced to a very minor position in the proposed media company 'Media Norge'.

It was Schibsted's demand for majority control in the new company that made Adresseavisa reject the propsal. Björn Wiggen, Mecom's CEO' has branded it an acquisition rather than a merger and said: "this is an acquisition of the regional papers masterminded by Schibsted". Lars Ander, a Swedish shareholder with a 20pc stake in BT who ensured BT did not reject the merger proposal at this stage, told DN: "One shouldn't forget that Schibsted is damn good at what it does, and has done an amazing job with Svenska Dagbladet and Aftonbladet. And the company gives total editorial freedom, even if Schibsted is a crocodile and a crocodile has a small brain."

Labour's civil war

Yesterday's 'attempted coup' against Blair was pretty dramatic. Luckily, Tom Watson, the junior minister who resigned, has a blog where we can read not only his resignation letter but also some of the reactions it sparked (the comment section here is a must-read if you're interested in the arguments pro/con Blair/Brown and Blair's early/late departure. Link via Jackie Danicki). Here's what the betmakers are saying.