Can minority media, which were established as print media, become only online media? Will the medium thus lose readers, or will it connect even more with the existing audience and attract a new one? “It was really a tough task for the whole team to go through this, but it’s been a great relief actually to have one thing you can concentrate on doing only online and trying to do this and in the very best way”, says Gwyn Nissen, editor in chief of GERMAN portal “Der Nordschleswiger” from Denmark, that made a big change in a ‘digital only’ approach in 2021.
On the European Conference devoted to Minority and Local Media in 2018 you annouced that Der Nordschleswiger, daily newspaper of German minority in Danmark, is going completely online in 2021. Has this change happened? What are the results of the change and what is the reaction of your readers?
Gwyn Nissen: Yes, we did the change on the 3rd of February 2021. That was exactly our 75th birthday, and the change has actually been quite successful. On some points very successful and very fast and on other areas a little slower than we hoped for. The most important thing is that we already changed going online more or less from 2019 to 2020, when our editorial staff made the change in strategic approach to digital first. Before that we had usually made the newspaper and out of the newspaper, we made the web. Since 2020, we actually went digital first: we started making our digital news first, and then we made the newspaper after that. We’d sort of been practicing for about one year. And then in February, during this year, we had the double strain really of working online first and then having to produce the newspaper. We had to play on all the time and it was quite hard for the employees. We also put on top new education in how to write online, how to catch people on the internet. It was really a tough task for the whole team to go through this and coming to the 3rd of February 2021, it’s been a great relief actually to have one thing you can concentrate on doing only online and trying to do this and in the very best way.
We have changed our workflow several times because the way you work isn’t the same. When you’re only making a newspaper, it’s not the same when you’re making newspapers and online. It’s not the same when you do online a newspaper, and it’s not the same when you do online only. Actually, in October 2021, we’ve made some more changes learning out of what do we need to plan and so on. I believe that we’re on a very good path and that the journalists feel comfortable with what they’re doing.
As you say, the last year was a preparation year for going online, but you had that “luck” that it was 2020 and the COVID 19 pandemic started also. How did that affect your preparation for the online?
Gwyn Nissen: Actually, one of the things that we had prepared already before that, was the way of communicating through a community, actually a chat system called Slack. So we had used Slack already. When COVID 19 came, we already had the communicate and we sent people to work from home. We already had slack to communicate with. So that was working. That way was actually only a very small change for us and was pretty relaxed. People had to get used to working at home. But the way of communicating wasn’t really the big issue, and we didn’t have to start from scratch. It also gave us a boost in working online because we knew people were searching information online all the time because of COVID19 pandemic.
We had especially quite a few German readers as well coming from Germany wanting to know what’s happening in Denmark. Very many Germans have interests in Denmark. They might have their summer house or their boat or whatever in camping ban in Denmark, and they wanted to know: Can I come to Denmark? How do I come to Denmark and on the Danish site COVID sites? It was either in Danish or it was in English and we actually wrote everything in German. We actually had thousands of Germans going into our media every day. And you have to remember we come from a newspaper with around 1100 subscribers on some of the top days on the internet. Last year, we had something like 35 400 people coming in on a day to read information. So we actually just came way much further out in the world than we would usually with our with our newspaper? The one thing when we talk about readers is that our own readership has many senior readers, because Denmark is quite far developed in infrastructure and in the digital thinking, also with seniors, very many of our old readers, also went with us into the net.