Amid pandemic, Norway’s Dagens Næringsliv finds success with wine

In building a brand around Dagens Næringsliv’s wine journalist Merete Bø, and putting her wine reviews behind the paywall, the content achieved one of the highest conversion rates per article from free to paid this year.

by Simone Flueckiger | October 30, 2020

Responding to reader interest, Norwegian business newspaper Dagens Næringsliv turned its wine journalism from two pages in its Saturday magazine and free online reviews into a person-driven “digital universe” with content across products.

“Like many of you, we were trying to shift away from being too product or print-oriented,” said Live Thorsen, DN’s Editor of Storytelling and Feature Journalism, during WAN-IFRA’s virtual Newsroom Summit.

“Because what happens when you have sections or products you start to fill them, and we’re trying to shift our reporting to not fit the pages but to fit our audience instead.”

Looking at audience data, DN found that wine journalist Merete Bø, who had for years been writing wine reviews for DN, had the byline with the most followers. Digging a bit deeper, DN’s insights department found that the one special interest most readers had in common was, in fact, food and wine.

“We knew that we had an audience, so then we could create something exciting and new with that insight,” Thorsen said.

To build a brand around Bø, DN started to produce video content in which she would share her expertise on wine, and created a podcast in collaboration with Norwegian comedian Thomas Giertsen called “I don’t know anything about wine.”

Both the video content and the podcast episodes are freely available, but DN started to slowly put the wine reviews behind the paywall.

“This was content that we had given away for years, so we started to really slowly test, and it resulted in one of the highest conversion rates per article that we had this year,” she said.

Providing additional value to reduce churn

Subscribers also receive a weekly newsletter from Bø, offering them a look at what she’ll eat on the weekend, and what wine she’s planning to pair the food with.

“The real value is that you get all her reviews and articles first. Her recommendations really sell out fast, the wines that she recommends sell out in just one day or a couple of days, so this inside information is really of value for our users and it makes them loyal and reduces our churn,” Thorsen said.

Bø started hosting paid-for live webinars (rather than in-person meetings because of COVID-19), which serve both as an additional revenue stream and a way to deepen the relationship with readers, allowing them to taste wine alongside her, and ask questions.

“We took our wine journalism that we always had in our Saturday magazine, and then, in collaboration with a lot of different departments, we created something new that made subscribers pay and stay,” Thorsen said.

Extending the approach

Several factors contributed to the success of the project, according to Thorsen, such as Bø’s personality and talent for communicating with the audience, launching the project at the right time (wine sales in Norway have skyrocketed this year), and, perhaps most importantly, readers’ demonstrated interest in the theme.

DN is now applying the method of building a brand around an individual, creating premium content, and providing additional value to other parts of its niche journalism with the goal of growing audiences and subscriptions.

Currently focusing on a car journalist who has been working with the paper for years, DN is producing video content “that’s going really well,” as well as adding the personalised newsletter, Thorsen said.

“For me, it’s also a story about finding a hidden talent that was already in the newsroom, and praise and expand that journalism, but we’re also looking into interests and needs our audience has that are not in our newsroom today.”

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