The Swedish newspaper who puts an algorithm in charge

SvD frontFour years ago Svenska Dagbladet was facing decreasing circulation, no digital revenue and dwindling readership. It has since done a full turnaround. Fredric Káren, then new editor-in-chief, had to do something radical in order to make the paper successful again. At the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, he explained how he made this happen and transformed the whole workflow in his newsroom. They invested heavily in technology which allowed the paper to get ahead and reap digital profits. For the most part their success was driven by an algorithm that runs the news.

Svenska Dagbladet or SvD is using The Creation Suite, the CMS of their parent group Schibsted. It’s very similar to other generic CMS out there. However, after editors finish their stories they assign it a “news” value, ranging from 1 to 5, and a “lifetime” value, short, medium or long. The algorithm then works its magic.

“These two calculate a score to place the article on the front-page. There is nothing for the web editor to be worried about because the homepage is updated automatically. The editor in charge only has to make two decisions. How important is the story, and the lifetime of the story,” Káren explains.

SvD EBITDA
The algorithm also clusters content by topic and creates newsletters. This saves the editors a lot of time. Valuable time that then can be spent on quality reporting. Káren admits that this growth in subscriptions revenue, profitability and increased efficiency, also resulted in some downsizing of the newsroom. Trough this new digital culture in the organization they were also able to rethink their print product; embracing formats that work well in the online version and help engage the readers.

Read more in the article on Storybench with an Interview of Fredric Káren.