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In 2012, Norwegian-based newspaper Fædrelandsvennen launched its freemium digital subscription model, which placed more than two thirds of online content behind a paywall.

The paid content model adopts a "one package, and one price" approach, news editor Christian Stavik explained at the Digital Innovators' Summit in Berlin today.

"You can call us and say you don’t want print, that's fine," he said, but added that regardless, "the price stays the same". "You pay for content, not platform".

When the paywall was first launched in May "we fell 17 per cent in reach", but the site's traffic has now returned to "levels before launch", with mobile and tablet the specific areas seeing an increase.

During the process of introducing the paywall a number of lessons were learned, specifically around the power of communication.

Communicate with your team and wider world

One of the key takeaways of Stavik's presentation was the importance of being open and honest with the team helping to drive the model forward.

"Internal communication was key in our transformation" he said. This did not mean pretending they had "all the answers", he said, instead they were "open and said we’re looking for the answers".

The company even took on experts in communication, and the overall result was to encourage "a feeling of togetherness".

And this approach to communication was translated onto social media, he said. Following the introduction of the paywall "we had 24/7 online presence from leaders" in the newsroom, Stavik said, including editors and executives.

He added that after a couple of weeks, when the immediate demand had reduced, the newspaper introduced "ambassadors amongst our customers" who help respond to queries.

Therefore, their use of social media and round-the-clock engagement with the public was "much more important than anything else in communications strategy", he said.

"Important editors and CEOs did get their hands filthy. Saturdays, Sundays, day and night."

Keep on top of technology

But there were mistakes to learn from as well, he said, including its initial efforts on mobile.

The other important lesson they learned was the need to keep on top of the technology, adding that "we should have launched and learned, but we launched and left". And this meant there were "severe bugs unfixed for several months".

"And I can tell you that is a really really bad situation", he said, adding "you should not underestimate the value of all technology working, and working smoothly."

Keep improving

Continuing forward, he added that culture remains at the heart of the digital development, with plans to outline "new, extremely clear digital goals on what the direction is".

They have also stopped staff print subscriptions, to encourage them to fully understand the digital experience and opportunities by placing them in the role of their digital consumer.

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