Online espresso, printed latte
13 September, 2011
By Francisco de Borja Durán (Spain)
Foreign Correspondents' Programme (FCP)
in Finland in August 2011
Media placement day at Iltalehti
Two sparrows irrupted in, disturbing chatter and everyone’s breakfast for a minute. It was a stylish cafeteria in the centre of Helsinki; glossy paraphernalia, high ceilings, mirrors on the walls and columns… All of it altered perception of the real dimensions of the place, one could simply not tell at first sight where the other end of the room was. Surely, it was spacious enough, for the birds flew around comfortably and they certainly didn’t stumble as much as the security guard who was trying to force them out.
As conversations resumed, the three of us also went back to debating the comings and goings of Iltalehti, one of the two big tabloid newspapers in Finland. “In every shop you will always find the two together, one by the other: Iltalehti and Ilta Sanomat, our main competitor”. Panu Pokkinen, editor-in-chief of Iltalehti, was having café latte and a carelian pie with a topping of smoked salmon that made me wish I had not turned down his offer to buy me breakfast. I was having plain coffee, as was the third in question, Heikki Rusama, web producer of the newspaper.
Being welcome not only the editor-in-chief, but also and most especially by the web producer of this particular medium wasn’t just a happy coincidence. Iltalehti is a big, nationwide newspaper, but it is also the most visited website in Finland. “Every other Finn visits our web”, summarised Panu, after explaining some figures. As I would find out after coffee, they do put a lot of effort into keeping the site fresh and kicking. The online news desk, with its various fancy monitors, reminded me of a command control centre out of a sci-fi movie.
Learning about the relation between print and online media during my work placement day was fascinating. While Heikki explained to me what his job consisted of, I began to realise how challenging a time this is for newspapers. Having an attractive online offer is a must if they don’t want to lag behind, but at the same time, readers are not ready to pay for online news as of yet. The strategy that most written media seem to be following is to divulge breaking news and most relevant information online, while saving the details and best pictures and writing for the print edition. The way Panu Pokkinen had put it right before the sparrows flew in is, I thought, an excellent representation: “Online news is like the morning coffee that gets you going, the print edition is like your occasional café latte, when you sit back and enjoy”.
Francisco de Borja Durán, Spain