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Home NATIONALTo Digitize or to print, this is question in Finland
Thu, 18 Dec, 2014 01:22:28 AM
FTimes - Xinhua Report by Juhani Niinisto, Dec. 18


The availability of newspapers in digital format has progressed well in Finland by international standards, but the slowish decline in the subscriptions to the printed papers does not please everyone in the media.

The national broadcaster Yle has made strides in developing its digital sector. However, its move has not met with welcome by many commercial newspapers either.

Kirsi Hakaniemi, a newly appointed head of digital business for Keskisuomalainen Plc, the publisher of many regional newspapers, made headlines in early December after saying that publishers had "actually been protecting their printed versions."

Digital technology has brought growth to many business sectors, but traditional media has not been able to do the same, she said.

Paivi Anttikoski, the editor-in-chief for digital content at Helsingin Sanomat, the largest newspaper in Finland, noted to Xinhua that the distribution costs of morning delivery are high in Finland. She did not believe, however, the efforts are being made to alienate the subscribers of the printed paper.

Helsingin Sanomat showed in 2013 an audited paid weekday circulation of 306,000 for the printed version and 161,180 for digital version. But when overlaps were excluded total circulation reached only 354,700. This indicated a huge majority still prefer the printed paper.

The Executive Director of the Finnish Newspaper Association Jukka Holmberg underlined the importance of combination subscriptions that gives access to both the printed paper and the digital versions. "Thanks to that type of subscription over 90 percent of Finns are following newspapers every week, either in print or on the web," he said.

Evening papers have been most successful in expanding the digital segment in Finland while the development has been slower for regular morning papers with home delivery. "Evening papers give their digital content free, while we have the payment walls," explained Anttikoski.

Reading newspapers with a mobile device has increased from 8 percent to 35 percent during the last four years in Finland. 20 percent of Finns read newspapers with a tablet.

Pekka Mervala, editor of the newspaper Keskisuomalainen in Jyvaskyla, Central Finland, did not underwrite the view that newspaper houses are protecting the printed versions. His paper has now 60,000 subscribers of the printed version while 13,000 people are willing to pay for the digital content.

He said the position of the national broadcaster as an internet producer competing with commercial newspapers is an issue for the politicians.

Marko Ala-Fossi, a senior media researcher at the University of Tampere noted to Xinhua that the public broadcaster is after all not dipping into the purses of the newspapers.

Unlike public broadcasters in countries such as Canada and Germany, the Finnish public broadcaster Yle is not allowed to run any advertisements, but is solely funded from a special tax levied on all residents who pay taxes in Finland.

He said also that the appetite for profits had increased in the regional newspaper houses in the wake of many of them becoming publicly listed.

Yle even has visions of giving up broadcasting in the traditional sense and becoming an internet service only. Yle Director for Development Ismo Silvo said recently that sometime during the 2020s the company would start giving up FM and TV transmitters and send on the internet only.

"The number of channels offered on the air could be reduced even earlier. Some transmitters could be kept on for security reasons," Silvo told Xinhua. He said broadcasting on internet would save taxpayer's money due to the high costs of operating transmitters and more funds would be available for broadcasts.

Senior researcher Marko Ala-Fossi said the idea of scrapping broadcasting in favour of internet may not be realistic. "Industry representatives say it is not feasible that the whole country would be covered with reliable internet," said Ala-Fossi.

The current share of internet audio listening in Finland is at around nine percent, he noted.

Yle has reduced the on-air promotion of its local FM frequencies and urges listeners and viewers to use the internet instead. "We are not pushing our audience to the internet", Silvo said, "but the future is there."

Last week, the largest Finnish daily in Swedish, Hufvudstadsbladet, celebrated its 150th birthday. It was the first in Finland to launch a separate evening edition in digital format only. To them, the only tangible domestic competitor on the internet is the public broadcaster's Swedish language operation. 


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