How do you keep a regional newspaper afloat in a competitive, often cash-strapped world? Anette Novak, editor-in-chief of Norran in northern Sweden, uses three elements to keep readers interested in her paper: co-creation with the readers, transparency with the community and newspaper credibility. These factors keep Norran successful and valuable in the eyes of the community it serves, she said at WAN-IFRA's Summer University in Paris.
Norran has a philosophy of high reader involvement. The paper has a live chat box called eEditor on its site that operates during newsroom hours, allowing readers to suggest ideas and discuss ongoing stories with journalists. The newspaper regularly uses community experts for news articles, and gives them bylines and credit. Novak stressed the importance of involving the audience to effectively cover the region: "you don't have to let them write, but you do have to listen to them."
The paper made the decision to go from being an impartial observer of community life to actively seeking to strengthen the region and help it prosper. Novak believes that as long as Norran is transparent about its support of the community, this is an acceptable attitude for a newspaper. Being critical in news articles and asking tough questions is a way of showing tough love to the community: Norran has also focused on producing more in-depth investigative journalism to show people you can be a critic of your community and still love it.
Norran has launched events aimed at strengthening the community, such as a Christmas market in the main square and ice-skating lessons for immigrants for the local team. It also started a community-generated list of "100 reasons to love where you live," which received so many entries that a list of 1000 reasons will be done next.
These efforts have resulted in connecting a positive message with the brand name, and this has meant an increase in advertising as brands now cannot afford not to be linked with such a positive motor in the community, Novak said.
Facebook referrals and overall web traffic are also up, as users feel more engaged and "friends" with the newspapers. Novak believes that this is the most important aspect in the paper's success: engage the readers and the money will follow.