The Swedish newspaper market has traditionally been strong, but has declined in circulation and importance since the late 1980s. The number of newspapers has, however, been stable for decades. There are about 150 printed papers in Sweden, almost all with an online edition. Of those, however, about 60 are published only once or twice a week and have a low circulation. Most newspapers are subscription-based, locally or regionally, with early morning home delivery. Almost all social groups read newspapers. Yet, since the turn of the century, a widening gap between young and old people has emerged: The old tend to hold on to printed newspapers, whereas younger people increasingly receive their news via social media. On the other hand, traditional newspapers have a strong presence online, including on social media platforms.
The Swedish print newspaper market can be divided into five main segments:
- The metropolitan subscribed morning papers: dailies published in the three metropolitan areas of Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö. The segment includes Dagens Nyheter in Stockholm, Göteborgs-Posten in Göteborg, and Sydsvenskan in Malmö. These are quality papers published seven days a week.
- The tabloids: two tabloid dailies published in Stockholm, Aftonbladet (the biggest Swedish newspaper) and Expressen, including its local editions in Göteborg (GT) and Malmö (Kvällsposten). Both newspapers are published seven days a week with a focus on entertainment, crime and sports, although they also feature debate on culture, opinion material and investigative journalism.
- The regional and local subscribed morning papers: all other papers published at least three times a week, with some of the biggest being Helsingborgs Dagblad, in Helsingborg, Dalarnas Tidningar, in Falun, and Nerikes Allehanda, in Örebro. Most papers in the group are published six or seven days a week, and those that are published seven days a week are usually only published online once a week (on Sunday).
- The low-frequency papers, comprising all general newspapers published once or twice a week, including both local papers in the metropolitan areas and small regional and local papers, all with small circulation. Newspapers in this group are, in general, completely dependent on the press subsidy system.
- Freely distributed newspapers form a group of their own, since their circulation is calculated differently from paid newspapers and based on distributed copies. The biggest newspaper in this segment is free daily Metro, distributed five days a week, with editions in Stockholm (launched in 1995), Göteborg (1998), Skåne/Malmö (1999) and nationwide (2004). Around 100 free newspapers are distributed weekly, and they form a very heterogeneous group: some have a standard as newspapers, others as ad sheets.
In addition, there is a limited number of national niche papers — eg the business daily Dagens Industri and the small Christian daily Dagen.
Since 2011, it has not been possible to provide a complete measure of the total printed circulation, as some of the largest newspapers have chosen to leave the common measurement system. It is still possible to measure readership , which has decreased dramatically during the last decade. 55 percent read a subscribed morning paper on an average day. This is 19 percentage points lower than ten years earlier. 44 percent only read the printed edition, 7 percent only the digital edition and 4 percent mix. The development for the tabloids is the opposite. 27 percent read a tabloid on an average day, whereas 20 percent only read online, 6 only in print and 1 percent mix.
As is the case in other countries around the world, the business models for the newspaper companies have become problematic. The online editions do not compensate for the decrease in advertising revenue from printed papers. The total advertising revenues of the newspaper market in 2015 was about 5 bn SEK (approximately €0.5bn). Compared to the year 2000, this is a reduction by half of the advertising revenues, and a decrease in the share of the total advertising market from 35 to 14 percent.
In the wake of the declining ad revenues and dropping circulation for printed newspapers, most Swedish newspaper companies have increased their efforts to attract digital subscribers. In 2016, approximately 22 percent of the Swedish population lived in a household with a subscription to a digital newspaper. Unlike the print market, which has traditionally been dominated by the local press, the market for digital-only subscriptions has so far been dominated by the Stockholm newspapers Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet, which have increasingly transformed their editorial profile from local newspapers for the capital region, to high-quality newspapers with a national reach. In 2016, Dagens Nyheter had some 75,000 digital-only subscribers nationally, whereas Svenska Dagbladet had 40,000. The most successful newspaper in terms of digital audience sales is, nevertheless, the tabloid Aftonbladet, whose so-called Plus service recorded some 250,000 paying members in 2016. Aftonbladet is rapidly on its way to becoming the first Swedish newspaper that gets a majority of its revenue from digital sales.
A first distinctive feature of the newspaper market in the 21st century has been the merger and acquisition of local newspaper companies. The eight largest newspaper groups account for around ninety percent of the total market revenues. The dominating actor in the newspaper market, in terms of revenues, is the Bonnier Group, which owns five of the largest newspapers in the country. The second biggest is Mittmedia, with 22 local newspapers, and third is the Swedish branch of the Norwegian Schibsted Group, with 2 titles, including Aftonbladet. A second typical feature of the Swedish newspaper market is foundation-owned newspapers, which, however, doesn’t seem to affect the way the newspaper business is run.
The total market of other printed periodical publications in Sweden is hard to estimate. There are some 2,000 titles on the market, but most of them are very small. 350 of them are audited by the national magazine organisation. There are two main categories of magazines:
- Popular press, where the most successful magazines are about home and gardening
- Organisational press, where the most successful magazines are about general business issues
The readership of periodicals is rather stable, and around 25 percent of the population read some popular magazine on an average day, and, in an average week, half of the population read one. Organisational press has a lower readership, with around 10 percent readers on an average day and 30 percent in an average week. Sweden never had any strong political magazines, probably because of its strong daily press with extensive political coverage. The main publishers, such as the Bonnier and the Aller groups, have maintained their strong position in the magazine market. The magazine market is generally characterised by a large degree of ownership concentration.
Although a small language market, Sweden has traditionally had a strong book market, which, in the early 21st century, has been expanding significantly. About 27,000 books are sold annually. Fiction and books for children/youths are the most popular categories. About half of the books are sold in physical stores, and half online. One third of the population read books on an average day. Printed books are most common in terms of both sales and readership, and audiobooks and e-books have not had so much impact yet. The dominating Swedish book publisher is Bonnier, which owns a number of book publishing companies, including both fiction and non-fiction publishers.