Kim Christian Schrøder and Mark Ørsten
The media environment continues to be characterised by strong public service broadcasters (DR and TV2) and a strong national press, but the already entrenched debate about the role of public service media online is intensifying ahead of a new remit in 2018.
The Danish media landscape is in a stage of transition characterised by increasing international competition, especially in advertising, and a widening generational gap between young and old media users.
The dramatic increase in getting news weekly through social media until 2016 (56%) was halted in 2017 (53%), and fewer now say that social media are their main source of news (from 12% to 10%). This development also holds for young people. Other social media operators continue to be dwarfed by Facebook as the unrivalled market leader in Denmark (but falling from 43% to 39%), with WhatsApp and Twitter remaining insignificant among ordinary users. News on mobile has overtaken computer use for news for the first time.
In the newspaper sector, industry figures indicate that after print readership plateaued in 2015, the downward trend resumed in 2016, with a 10–15% fall for national dailies.1 Niche newspapers with a focus on background and depth seem less vulnerable (Kristeligt Dagblad, Weekendavisen).
Reach for individual news brands is dominated by the public service institutions offline as well as online. Overall the balance between private and public service media has been stable since 2016, but the online reach of both public service providers has decreased significantly. The high 2016 levels can probably be explained by a surge in news interest in January–February, due to several exceptional news stories about public scandals, one of which threatened the life of the government.
The acquisition of Denmark’s oldest newspaper group Berlingske by the Belgian De Persgroep in 2016 has resulted in a changed content profile for the morning daily Berlingske towards more cultural coverage and a more accessible approach to its business coverage. Berlingske’s tabloid BT acquired control of the only remaining free daily metroxpress from Swiss Tamedia (November 2016). The JP/Politiken Group was blocked from acquiring the daily business paper Børsen by the state competition regulator, arguing that a merger would damage the national print and online market in relation to both advertisers and subscribers. Instead Politiken acquired a 49.9% share in Børsen.
The main online-born news actors Zetland and Føljeton, with a mission to rejuvenate online journalism through background and in-depth coverage, are struggling to reach subscription levels sufficient to supplement the sizeable public subsidy. Right-wing online news platforms without party affiliation are emerging, such as Den korte avis (est. 2012), NewSpeak Networks (est. 2015), and 24nyt.dk (est. 2017). All are increasingly being criticised for providing services that come perilously close to fake news. International digital-born actors like BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post are hardly measurable in Danish readership surveys.
The willingness to pay for online news seems to have plateaued at the level of 2016. After Politiken and Berlingske abandoned their metered models for the freemium model in 2016 to give subscribers a greater sense of value for money, all Danish newspapers now see some form of freemium model as the key to viability of their online services.
Danes have adapted fast to mobile technology and are lovers of Apple products in particular. The number accessing news via smartphone has overtaken those using computers for the first time. Print newspapers sell fewer copies than in other Nordic countries.
While Danes have greater trust in the news media they themselves use, as in most other countries, they also have relatively high overall trust in the news. Journalism in Denmark is seen as independent and relatively free from both political and commercial influence. Despite this, there is some public concern about fake news, and Denmark’s first fact-checking service has been founded by a niche news magazine/think tank.
- Kantar Gallup, reported by the media news service Mediawatch: http://mediawatch.dk/secure/Medienyt/Aviser/article9399439.ece ↩