In Finland reading the newspaper every day is a way of life, with print and online versions playing equally important roles. Two very different Sanoma newspapers are going a long way towards satisfying Finns’ appetite for news. 

For outsiders, it’s hard to imagine how important newspapers – both in print and online – are to the average Finn. For example, Sanoma’s publications Helsingin Sanomat (known in Finland as HS) and Ilta-Sanomat (IS) are household names.

Impeccable credentials

Helsingin Sanomat is the biggest subscription newspaper in the Nordic countries. Its credentials are impeccable. When it was founded at the end of the 19th century, Finland was still a grand duchy in Tsarist Russia. Today, HS has over 350,000 subscribers and what makes it truly special is that, in the words of HS Publisher Petteri Putkiranta, “Sanoma was built around our newspaper.”

“Sanoma was built around our newspaper” 


Management of Helsingin Sanomat: Petteri Putkiranta.

Way of life

HS reports about the events of the world every day; there are only 12 days a year when there is no printed edition. Putkiranta adds more context: “HS is quite simply a way of life, a daily habit and an important part of our cultural heritage.” He illustrates the point with an example. “Last November we had a short postal strike and to circumvent it, we established temporary collection points. Every day, literally tens of thousands of subscribers came to get their paper. The fact we managed to maintain reader relations clearly demonstrates the importance of HS in Finnish society.”

"HS is quite simply a way of life, a daily habit and an important part of our cultural heritage"

Mobile devices are the main driver of the the growth of HS.

Value of advertising

Its advertising policy also sets HS apart from newspapers in other countries. The front page is taken up by a full-page advertisement, usually for a high-end product or retail brand. While most readers consider advertising a necessary evil, Putkiranta insists that HS readers specifically want them. “Given a daily readership of 780,000, it’s hard to overestimate the value of advertising. In this country, newspapers are the number two media in terms of advertising budgets.”

 

Milestones

HS’ online readership even exceeds that of the printed edition. Putkiranta adds: “The average print reader spends of course far more time on the paper than online visitors.” Mobile devices are the main driver of the paper’s growth; in 2015 more readers accessed it on mobile devices than on desktop computers. Another 2015 milestone was the doubling of video viewing. And all the while, customer satisfaction keeps growing. Putkiranta stresses that HS will continue to invest in its digital service to improve the quality of the user experience.

"The average print reader spends far more time on the paper than online visitors"

Weekly digest: HS Viikko

In December 2015, HS launched a completely new product: a hybrid digital and print publication named HS Viikko, which is optimised for both media. Sanoma’s response to rising distribution costs, HS Viikko, gives subscribers in far-flung parts of Finland a weekly digest of HS on Friday through the post. “All I can say at this point is that the start of HS Viikko has been promising,” Putkiranta comments.

No limits

Tapio Sadeoja is  the publisher and editor-in-chief  of IIta-Sanomat .

Helsingin Sanomat has an overall reach of about 2.1 million, and Ilta-Sanomat about 3 million in a week. But it’s the differences between them that catch the eye. IS is an evening tabloid selling single copies at newsstands throughout Finland, while online it’s the country’s biggest daily. “We’re very good at news coverage,” says Tapio Sadeoja, IS’ publisher and editor-in-chief. “The printed paper writes about sports, celebrities and entertainment, while online there’s no limit to what we cover. We publish what Finns think and talk about, what their hearts beat for. We try to keep ahead of the news and even create some of it. We reach half of Finland’s population.”

Trust

According to Sadeoja, Finland’s phenomenal newspaper consumption is second only to that of Japan. “Newspapers are traditionally big here. Our brands are respected and trusted, and that trust is making us very big on the web. Most traffic visits our site free of charge; we’re financed by advertising and business-to-business. Our paper’s nationwide audience appeals to advertisers.”


"Our paper’s nationwide audience appeals to advertisers"

Visual content

In 2015 IS started publishing IS Extra, a subscription platform boasting exclusive online and TV coverage of the Finnish football league. Sadeoja: “IS Extra is a great success. Both our audience and the football league are happy with it.” IS, he explains, is moving increasingly toward visual content, especially video clips. “During the record-hitting week of 2015 we had five million video starts."

Widening gap

His paper’s main achievement in 2015, says Sadeoja, was that throughout the year IS had the biggest newspaper site in Finland. “Eighty per cent of all online traffic reaches our site directly, and 60 per cent uses mobile devices. We have apps for all of them. 2015 was an excellent year for us. The gap with our closest competitor is widening. We’re already 20 per cent bigger, and my main ambition for this year is to make the gap even bigger. In the digital world the biggest player attracts the users and the advertisers.” 

"We’re already 20 per cent bigger than our closest competitor"