Founded in 1830, Swedish outlet Aftonbladet is the biggest daily newspaper in the country. In 1994 it went online. In 2003 it launched its online subscription model, Aftonbladet Plus.
Eleven years later, the organisation boasts 1.8 million visitors to its Aftonbladet Plus service on mobile every day, constituting 20 per cent of the population, and 1.5 million to desktop.
Managing editor Ted Kudinoff shared the figures at the Tablet and App Summit in Amsterdam today, stressing the need for "full commitment at all levels" to a paid service "from the managing editor to the reporters, editors and analytics teams".
Kudinoff shared some other lessons in what has made the project so successful.
Story subjects for mobile
Sex and relationships is "perfect for mobile", Kudinoff said.
Because the reader carries a smartphone with them almost all the time, it feels more private and personal compared to "a device or computer that you share with the whole family".
Entertainment stories have also proven very popular on mobile in terms of "second-screening", he said, as readers look for extra information around popular television shows or personalities.
"Crime and mysteries" were popular at Aftonbladet as well, particularly during evenings and weekends, to the point where "we can write almost anything about crime or mystery and it sells", Kudinoff said.
The so-called 'Highway of Tears' in Canada, the location of more than 20 murders with no convictions in the last 50 years, has been of particular interest to Aftonbladet Plus readers and proved to be a rich seam of stories for the outlet.
Video from the Aftonbladet reports in to the 'Highway of Tears'
New articles for new behaviours
The concept of peak traffic times around mobile is nothing new, and Kudinoff said the editorial and analytics teams work very closely to identify those times for Aftonbladet and tailor articles to fit.
Those peak times – 6:30 am, 9am, 12pm, 6pm and 11:30pm – are closely tied to readers' behaviour on mobile devices, so the top line or top story is altered at these times to suit what readers will be looking for.
Mobile is often thought of as the reserve of the young but, in Sweden, Kudinoff said Aftonbladet sees "enormous" traffic on mobile from older readers and as such the outlet needs to know "which topics sell best at which times".
The commitment to paid content ideas needs to be universal throughout an organisation for it to work, said Kudinoff.
With a soft paywall at Aftonbladet, where some articles are available for free but more "quality" or in-depth content like features or video is paid-for, Kudinoff makes sure reporters are aware that their articles are expected to bring in new subscribers.
Having a close integration of analytics and editorial has also led to a more detailed level of A/B testing in the newsroom, beyond headlines into publishing times and types of content, to understand best what the audience wants.
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