Oslo-based newspaper Dagsavisen is planning a daily special print edition for the city of Drammen and the large Buskerud County, challenging a near-monopoly held by Drammens Tidende since its competitor folded more than a decade ago.
Dagsavisen has even acquired the name of that old competitor, Fremtiden (The Future), and is targeting readers and advertisers in Drammen under the name Dagsavisen Fremtiden.
The strikingly contrarian move goes against most trends in Norway’s newspaper industry, which has little tradition for zoned editions and also has seen numerous underdog local papers going out of business in recent years.
According to Eirik Hoff Lysholm, acting editor of Dagsavisen, the idea is to combine local journalism in Drammen with Dagsavisen’s coverage of national news, international events and culture. Dagsavisen Fremtiden will have up to 12 pages of local content, replacing local coverage from Oslo. Three or four reporters will serve the local edition, scheduled to hit the streets well before national elections in September.
“Zoned national newspapers are very popular in other countries,” Lysholm wrote in an editorial column on Wednesday. “In Norway, we’ve had lots of media including both national papers and competing local papers. That was a luxury we no longer have.”
Describing Drammen as one of Norway’s most exciting cities, Lysholm said that the project is an attempt to enrich the public conversation in a place which currently “not only has the country’s best football team, a lively cultural scene and solid population growth, but also a level of local commitment rarely seen so close to a capital city.”
The venture is far from risk-free. Drammens Tidende has seen its circulation drop in recent years and the newspaper business is troubled all over the world because of competition from websites, often newspapers’ own sites. Dagsavisen itself is no gold mine either, surviving on government support to the tune of NOK 40 million annually. It’s Norway’s largest receiver of state support under a subsidy system known as pressestøtten. Lysholm told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that Dagsavisen has little prestige attached to this project.
“If we don’t succeed, we’ll just pull out,” he said. “But at least we would have made an honest effort.”
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