The Norwegian media landscape combines strong national publishers and public service media with a reputation for innovation in content and business models. In the wake of the pandemic, Norwegian media still lead the field in payment for news online, despite some decline in use of and trust in news.
Norway remains the country with the highest number of consumers (41%) willing to pay for online news, but with evidence from our survey (down four percentage points, pp) and in some industry data that growth may have reached a saturation point.1 The national titles that our paying respondents cited most often were VG, Aftenposten, and Dagbladet, but over half (53%) are paying for local titles. Given Norway’s strong tradition of reading print newspapers, the transition to digital subscriptions has been promoted with hybrid solutions that typically bundle paper and digital content. This, and the absence of freesheets, helps explain why Norway has established the lead in our survey in paying for online news. A related issue for the success of subscription strategies is the willingness to register or set up an account to access news. Almost four in ten have done so, which is the third highest in our survey, and 26% have registered with more than one provider. Many more respondents (44%) trust news websites to use their personal data responsibly than trust social media to guard privacy in this regard (34%).
The smartphone is by far the most used device for news, and as many as 43% reach for their phones to get the first news in the morning (up from 32% in 2019), compared to just 5% who go to print. This shows not only a digitally savvy market, but in light of willingness to pay, brand use, and trust measures, it illustrates how legacy brands have managed to reinvent their journalism for a new medium and succeeded surprisingly well in bringing paying users with them.
In contrast to many countries, Norwegian established news media fared well economically through the pandemic and avoided layoffs. Swift public emergency subsidies during the pandemic helped – and in some cases ended up being returned as news providers experienced less damage than expected. Ad revenues have been fluctuating, but by early 2022, ad agencies reported substantial increases in digital sales, expecting the ad market to have bounced back after the pandemic downturn. As evidence of a generally optimistic outlook for journalism, key news providers have continued the shift to digital-only, and by early 2022, Schibsted (which owns VG and Aftenposten, for instance) claimed to be ‘digitally sustainable’, meaning it is no longer reliant on print news income.
Public service broadcaster NRK kept its leading position in television and radio news and remains a much used and highly trusted brand online – beaten only by Schibsted’s VG online. While both NRK and VG see slight decrease in reach, the group of most used brands, and their ranking, remains stable. On the back of a government-initiated review of the NRK’s contributions to media diversity, the long-lasting debate about the public service broadcaster’s online activities resurfaced this year, with stronger calls from commercial media to restrict NRK’s online provision.
This year we saw a continued professionalisation and promotion of podcasts in Norway, with commercial brands acquiring established podcast stars, and the NRK more actively pushing their audio programming as podcasts. Usage of podcasts has continued to grow: 42% of Norwegians have listened to a podcast during the last month (up 6pp since 2020), and among the under 35s, the increase is as much as 9pp. The increase is particularly notable for podcasts on specialist issues, such as business, science, and health.
Among the recent and ongoing global crises that news focuses on, the climate crisis is still getting attention among Norwegians. Seven in ten say they pay attention to this issue, with documentaries standing out as a preferred source. Still, two out of ten state they don’t pay attention to climate change and a plurality agrees that news should reflect a range of views on the issue, rather than taking a clear position.
University of Bergen
After two years of COVID-19, consumption amongst the main news brands has levelled off. TV has seen a small drop since 2021 (-3pp), but online, social media and print seem to be plateauing – meaning the decline in print appears to have halted.
Pay for online news
Listen to podcast in the last month
Trust in news overall
Trust in news I use
Norway regularly scores highly on trust and in 2022 records low levels of news polarisation and cynicism. Trust in news overall is only marginally down (-1pp) after the bump during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. All major news brands have seen some decrease in trust levels, while so-called alternative news sites (Document and Resett) saw a marginal increase.