Finland: major publishers on a shopping spree

Takeovers and mergers have left their mark on the print media market in recent years.

Journalists of Helsingin Sanomat newspaper protesting in 2018 against a visit by Donald Trump. Finland ranks 2nd on the World Press Freedom Index.
Journalists of Helsingin Sanomat newspaper protesting in 2018 against a visit by Donald Trump. Finland ranks 2nd on the World Press Freedom Index.
The Finnish newspaper market remains in flux. The latest big move came in February 2020 when the Sanoma Group acquired 15 regional and local newspapers from its main competitor Alma Media. The 115-million-euro deal is another example of how companies are trying to focus on their core competencies in response to increasingly difficult market conditions. Sanoma now owns the country’s two highest-circulation dailies and intends to boost its digital subscriber figures with these newly acquired titles, where the main focus is still on the print editions. Meanwhile, Alma Media is trying to raise its profile by focusing on its digital activities. The Keskisuomalainen group, based in central Finland, also took over several local newspapers in 2019.

The newspaper sector in general has been dogged by declining circulation figures for years. Publishers also blamed the introduction of VAT for print products in 2012 - initially at nine percent, now at ten percent – for this trend. To make matters worse, VAT for digital newspapers was as high as 24 percent until 2019, when it was reduced to 10 percent, bringing it in line with print publications. Some newspapers passed on the tax reduction directly to subscribers, but Finland's leading daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat announced that it would use the savings to develop its digital platform and hire additional digital journalists.

The above-mentioned media groups Sanoma and Alma Media control an increasingly large proportion of the daily newspaper market, and also have assets in television, radio and the Internet. Helsingin Sanomat, published by the Sanoma group, is by far the most influential and highest-circulation newspaper. Alongside the Finnish-language newspapers there is also a handful of Swedish-language newspapers aimed at the Swedish minority.

Online cooperation among media groups

In recent years, publishers have intensified their collaborative activities in order to cut costs. In 2014 twelve regional newspapers signed a cooperation agreement which provides for joint production of content that can be used for print and online media simultaneously. And even before the series of major takeovers, publishing groups had already significantly expanded their online activities and recorded a substantial increase in revenues from online advertising.

In 2017 Helsingin Sanomat was also able to increase its circulation for the first time after years: the steady decline in its print circulation has been offset by new online subscribers. According to the company, 27 percent of its subscribers now purchase only the digital edition of the newspaper.

As publishers and private broadcasters strengthen their position on the Internet, criticism is growing of the tax-financed public broadcaster Yle, which provides free news and films and hence competition for private media companies.

World Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders):
Rank 2 (2020)

Last updated: April 2020

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