By: Sofie Jansson and Katarina Bennich

It was the CEO Tomas Brunegård’s second visit at the university on April 19, . He described having fond memories of walking across a lively campus in the mid-80s. That time, the purpose of his stay was to visit his cousin, then a PhD student in the Scandinavian department. This time, Brunegård was the center of attention. He is delighted to be back and re-experience the vibrant atmosphere. "It is a true privilege to come here," he told an enthusiastic audience made up of a mix of different nationalities, though mostly Swedes.
As the vice president of the World Association of Newspapers it only seemed logical that Brunegård would start the hour long lecture by addressing the issue of the accelerated decline of the newspaper industry. We live in turbulent times, he declared, but emphasized that this is not only due to the rapid change of technology. Instead, the reasons derive from deeper societal trends—media consumption in general, and globalization in particular. In Scandinavia and other parts of the world newspapers still do surprisingly well compared with the U.S. But why is this?


80% of the Swedish population read their daily paper
According to Brunegård, some important influential factors include a country’s historic and cultural background. Sweden has the world’s oldest press freedom act, established as early as 1766. It became an essential part of shaping the industrial Swedish society. The newspapers could both target and inform the masses, becoming a natural part of people’s lives. You could claim that reading the newspaper at the breakfast table every morning is practically embedded in the Swedish cultural heritage.
To this day the importance of newspapers is evident in the statistics: About 80 percent of the population reads the newspaper on a daily basis compared to the U.S. where the number is closer to 30 percent. In mid-century America, television quickly grew popular as the go-to resource for the latest news, perhaps explaining another reason for the gap. Also, the idea of relying on advertising revenue in order to make a profit off newspapers was much more prevalent in the U.S. compared to Scandinavia where the concept was used to a lesser extent—something that, according to Brunegård, proved effective during the recent years of the fluctuating market when the U.S. market was struck significantly harder than its Scandinavian counterpart.
Stampen originally started off as a single newspaper company and gradually consolidated the Swedish newspaper and media market. The company has always valued local newspapers and made sure they have had a strong position nationwide. This helped Stampen sustain itself during difficult financial times.
Brunegård is proud of the company’s shift to digital print. They invested in social media at an early stage, and today that is where they find most of their revenue. In fact, Stampen operates some of the biggest social media sites in Sweden. Together with regular newspaper websites the online content is read by millions of people every day, and Brunegård approves of the change he is seeing.

Social media brings democracy, honesty
"Social media brings democracy because it is impossible for large corporations to control. The universal flow of free information has shifted the power to the people. It also forces companies around the world to be more honest as there are thousands of whistle blowers," Brunegård said.
However, the phenomenon of digital development has put immense pressure on the newspaper companies. When the social media users take on the role of journalists and editors, there is no one to take responsibility for the content spread online, and the legislation hindering ulterior motives such as political agendas is bypassed as anyone can publish or comment on online material. Another consequence is that there is no one left that is willing to pay for quality content. The newspaper companies then have to face the challenge of finding a way to make the market profitable.
"A non-profit media industry is irresponsible," Brunegård stated. "The free phenomena equals the death of journalism. To survive it is essential to navigate the challenges with an open mind set and always be willing to learn. We need to stay competitive and not just survive, but stay sharp."
With increased globalization and the digitalizing of information, the world has become smaller. Publishers and news makers have to be aware of the new media landscape. This became evident when an editor-in-chief at a Stampen-operated local Swedish newspaper published a drawing (by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks) which depicted the Islamic prophet Muhammad as a roundabout dog. The publishing lead to a world wide public outcry and several death threats from Islamic extremist groups.
"A few hours after the drawing appeared in the small town newspaper Nerikes Allehanda, the president of Iran held a press conference on the topic," Brunegård said. "This example shows that even a small newspaper can make a difference. All in all, the newspaper industry still has a meaning and a strong purpose," he concluded with the same positive spirit that permeates his view on the media market and its indecisive future.

More information: Stampen-gruppen