Sweden: digital gains don’t compensate for losses

The trend of declining circulations continues in Sweden. Some papers have had to shut down for good, while others are now only available in digital form. The rising number of digital subscriptions does not make up for the losses in newspaper sales.

Launched in 1995, Metro was the pioneer of free papers worldwide. The Swedish print version was discontinued in August 2019.
Launched in 1995, Metro was the pioneer of free papers worldwide. The Swedish print version was discontinued in August 2019.
Göteborgs-Posten lost almost a quarter of its readers between 2018 and 2019, a study conducted in 2019 by media research company Orvesto Konsument shows. According to the same study, the prestigious daily Dagens Nyheter also saw its reader numbers dip below the 500,000 mark for the first time during that period. The free newspaper Metro discontinued its Swedish edition completely in August 2019. Founded in 1995, the paper was once the pioneer of free newspapers in major cities around the world. But in Stockholm, it fell victim to the smartphone. People prefer to use their mobile phones on their way to work rather than leaf through a print product.

All media outlets are therefore banking on digital distribution, especially via apps for smartphones and tablets. Television and radio are also playing an increasingly active role in this segment. However, newspapers have not been able to fully compensate for the decline in their print sales by expanding their online operations. To date there is no major publication that relies exclusively on its online platform.

These are times of rapid and profound changes in the media sector, even in Sweden, which in 1766 became one of the first countries in the world to enshrine freedom of the press in its constitution. Press freedom is a key element of the right to freedom of expression, which has always been a cherished principle in Sweden. The changes are also reflected in the reform of state support for daily newspapers, and in the financing of the public service broadcasters. The latter are now financed by a tax instead of through licence fees, as was previously the case. State support for local newspapers has also been restructured. The concentration of ownership, however, continues unabated.

A distinctive feature of the Swedish media landscape is the relatively prominent role still played by the public service and ad-free broadcasters Sveriges Television and Sveriges Radio. Sveriges Radio broadcasts in minority languages as well as in Swedish. The supervisory structures are designed to keep political influence to a minimum. However, the up-and-coming right-wing populist Sweden Democrats party has repeatedly criticised the reporting of these media and tried to get the parliament to reprimand them - without success so far.

The rise of private television and radio broadcasters (in particular TV3, TV4 and Canal+) since the early 1990s has strongly influenced the programming of the public broadcasters, which have copied formats from private TV, such as soaps and competition shows.

The public broadcasters and the leading dailies play a key role in shaping public debate in Sweden, although social media are also highly influential. As a result of various acquisitions and concentration processes in the 1990s and 2000s, the newspaper market is now dominated by the Norwegian media group Schibsted and the Swedish group Bonnier media.

World Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders):
Rank 4 (2020)

Last updated: April 2020
Media search

Media from Sweden at euro|topics

Media search