Hallvard Moe and Hilde Sakariassen
University of Bergen
The Norwegian media landscape mixes strong national publishers and public service media, with a reputation for innovation in content and business models. Norwegians’ main news sources include public broadcaster NRK, commercial channel TV2, leading quality newspaper Aftenposten, and tabloids VG and Dagbladet. However, local and regional newspapers remain important for many Norwegians — in print and online.
Traditional news sources like print and television are in decline, while online news use remains unchanged from last year. Almost nine in ten (87%) Norwegians use online news weekly, one of the highest figures in our survey, with user patterns shifting rapidly from computers to smartphones. Smartphone is now the number one device for news in Norway. This gradual shift away from the computer has happened over the last two years, and while the use of computer now seems to have peaked, smartphone is still on the rise.
Norway remains the country with the highest number of consumers willing to pay for online news, up 4 percentage points since last year. The strong tradition for print newspaper reading, coupled with the absence of freesheets, has facilitated a transition to digital subscriptions through hybrid solutions (typically bundles offering access to both paper and digital content).
Despite broadcast TV’s decline, it remains a source for the majority in Norway. This year, commercial channel TV2 overtook licence-fee funded NRK as the most used. TV2 was established in 1992 with a public service remit, but is an ad-funded, private alternative to the NRK. 2018 will see negotiations for a renewed contract to prolong its public service remit. Simultaneously, the government is preparing discussions to consolidate all media support schemes (including press support and licence-fee money) in one shared pool for redistribution across media and platforms. This coincides with scrutiny of NRK’s online presence, and might signal changes in the regulation of the public broadcaster.
Social media are used as a source of news by many. While the use of most of the platforms remains almost unchanged this year, Snapchat sees a significant increase (4 points). This can be seen in the context of Snapchat’s 2017 launch of one of the first non-English-speaking Discover news channels in Norway (VG). Meanwhile, Buzzit, the viral news site launched by local newspaper company Nordlys in 2014, closed in autumn 2017, leaving no major viral sites left in Norway. By 2018, some media companies, including local newspaper owner Amedia (owned by a foundation since 2016) reported considerable profits due to increased ad sales and more digital subscribers, coupled with cost cutting.
Faktisk.no, a non-commercial initiative checking the accuracy of news online, was launched as a tool to combat so-called ‘fake news’. The launch happened in the period leading up to Norway´s general election in the fall of 2017, amidst worries over fake news similar to that seen in the US election. The election was expected to be greatly influenced by social media, thus a big proportion of the political campaign budget was spent on social media advertising. Politics and social media have become increasingly interlinked in Norway. In March 2018, a controversial status update from the Minister of Justice on Facebook caused her resignation and almost a change of government. By spring 2018, Facebook was also heavily debated in Norway for its facilitation of polarised debate and for privacy issues similar to those in the US.
Like many other countries, Norway has also seen the rise of ‘partisan’ news sites in the last few years. Resett.no, document.no, and rights.no, are among the most used, all with a tough stance on the issue of immigration and Islam, and all causing public debates that extend beyond their audiences and into the general headlines. While these sites reach a significant number of people, they are less trusted than mainstream media, with the public broadcaster NRK topping the list in our survey.
It is worth noting that trust in news is fairly low (15th of 37 countries surveyed), despite little social and political polarisation in media use patterns, financial support for media, and relatively low levels of political parallelism. Research has showed that trust in journalists’ professionalism and biases depends on political preference, with far-right voters and those with strong views on immigration expressing most mistrust.