Case: Helsingin Sanomat

  • 11 May 2015

Helsingin Sanomat is the biggest daily newspaper in the Nordics, and very much a pioneer when it comes to the digital transformation of the newspaper industry. Richie has worked with Helsingin Sanomat since 2010, and the result has been a suite of mobile products that are performing exceptionally well in the marketplace.

Helsingin Sanomat (HS) currently has 170,000 paying digital subscribers. With a daily print circulation of 285,000 in 2014, the paper is at the forefront of converting paid subscribers to digital.

What are the secrets to their success? Here’s a few things we at Richie think HS has done right:

  • Upsell the digital editions, and make it easy to upgrade. For more than a decade, HS has actively sold digital as an affordable add-on to the print subscription. One classic pitch was to remind parents that their children could use the digital subscription, even if studying in a different city.

  • Include everything. A pure digital subscriber doesn’t want to feel like they’re missing out. HS’s app and web products include everything a print subscriber gets, and more. This means the weekly supplements and the monthly magazines, as well as things like replica editions of any advertising supplements a print subscriber would receive. It all counts.

  • Iterate. While HS works with partners like Richie to build their apps, they maintain strong ownership of the product portfolio and move their apps forward incrementally with frequent upgrades, taking cues from customer feedback and industry insight.

  • Rethink advertising. Many advertisers are abandoning print for the measurability and targetability of digital, but web advertising is often even worse: banner ads are famously ineffective in driving actions or brand awareness. Native apps for mobile and tablets represent a chance for a reboot of sorts, and HS has embraced this with Richie’s high end, full screen rich media ad units.

  • Use your apps as a platform for growth. For subscribers of a newspaper, the morning (or, increasingly, the evening) ritual of reading it is a treasured moment. Helsingin Sanomat has been able to build on that daily relationship with new, digital-only features that increase revenue while simultaneously deepening engagement with readers. Examples include HS Ilta, the digital-only evening edition of the paper; HS Kirjat, a €10-a-month all-you-can-eat digital book club, and a €5-per-month set of additional glossy magazines from the publisher’s portfolio.

The results of this approach have been impressive. 170,000 paying digital subscribers is a huge figure, even when compared to some of the biggest global newspapers. For a paper in Finnish, a language with just 5.4 million native speakers, this is all the more impressive. But the revenue story is remarkable as well: in per-reader terms, the HS mobile products bring in 700% more revenue than the desktop version.

Richie’s role in the Helsingin Sanomat success story is twofold:

  • Maggio, Richie’s e-edition publishing platform, powers all supplemental content in the HS apps, including magazines, books, advertising supplements, and the replica edition of the day’s paper. For readers, Maggio represents completeness and breadth of content; for some, it also means familiarity with the print product. For HS, it simply means revenue, as well-served subscribers are more willing to pay for their digital subscriptions.

  • Richie Ads, our rich media advertising platform, is used to bring beautiful full page ads to the apps. If you think about it, full page ads are, sort of, the original native advertising—when you browse a newspaper or a magazine from one page to the next, encountering ad spreads interspersed with the editorial content is the most natural thing in the world. To see examples of these ads, download the Richie Showcase iPad app.

Both Maggio and Richie Ads are available in SDK form, ready to integrate into existing newspaper apps. Alternatively, Sanoma, the publisher of Helsingin Sanomat, licenses the complete Helsingin Sanomat app platform as a white-label product. To learn more about these SDKs and Richie’s app components in general, please contact us; to see the Sanoma app platform in action, visit their web site at platform.sanoma.com.

Marko Karppinen is Richie’s founder and CEO. You should follow him on Twitter here.