War of Attrition Among Scandinavian Freesheets

23 November 2006

OSLO: Despite a marked slowdown in newspaper advertising revenues across Europe, Scandinavian publishers have thrown caution to the icy winds to enter into a freesheet battle in the region.

Oslo-headquartered Schibsted, which owns Aftenposten, the largest newspaper in Norway, and 49.9% of Sweden's leading paper Aftonbladet, and Orkla Media (recently acquired by London-based Mecom Europe) aim to use the strong brand recognition of their dominant press holdings to lure readers to new freesheets and news websites.

Orkla Media's assets include Denmark's Berlingske newspapers and the Berliner Verlag papers in Germany.

Free titles offer cheaper advertising space than traditional broadsheets and tabloids and attract both classified and full-page corporate-ad deals at a much faster rate.

Comments freesheet advertiser Peter Jorgensen, marketing director for Sonofon, a leading cellphone provider in Denmark: "We have been able to reach a younger audience with the free press."

However, newspaper analyst Hans Henrik Lichtenberg of Newspaperindex.com warns that distribution is a perennial problem which throws up the question of whether advertising in freesheets is effective.

He says: "They are all over the streets, in trains and in coffee shops. It's annoying and it adds another meaning to the word junk-news. There have been many incidences of entire truckloads of free newspapers left at parking lots."

According to data from the World Advertising Research Center total newspaper advertising sales in Europe this year are expected to rise just 1%, to €30.5 billion ($39.2bn; £20.5bn) from €30.2 billion in 2005.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff