Lengthy articles on politics, science and culture, a preference for the broadsheet format and high, almost literary ambitions. How the Danish weekly newspaper Weekendavisen does everything differently and is still a success.
Weekendavisen is an idiosyncratic phenomenon in the Danish media landscape. The newspaper, which celebrated its 50th anniversary a few months ago, is published once a week and focuses strongly on lengthy articles covering politics, science, literature and culture. While other titles compete on speed, scoops or clicks, Weekendavisen mainly aims for well-informed, beautifully designed and well-written articles that subscribers will read from start to finish. So it’s not any old newspaper that you scan quickly at the breakfast table.
A distinguishing feature of Weekendavisen is that employees have great freedom of choice regarding topics and genres alike. The newspaper offers a platform for essays and personal stories, as well as analyses and investigative journalism. But there’s one key requirement: the paper has high, almost literary ambitions for the articles that writers deliver. “Our journalists have to be able to write very, very well,” says editor-in-chief Martin Krasnik.
editor-in-chief of Weekendavisen since 2017. He started at the paper in 1995. Also known in Denmark as a TV interviewer.
the number of copies rose by 6,000 to nearly 47,000
Weekendavisen originated in 1971 from the newspaper Berlingske (founded in 1749). The initiators of the weekly newspaper found inspiration in English-language weeklies such as The Economist and Newsweek. Its readers are currently from all parts of the political spectrum. “Above all, we’re culturally conservative,” says Krasnik. “Culture, knowledge and history – those are things that we and our readers find important.”
Weekendavisen’s concept was unchallenged for a long time, but many dailies have now set their sights on Saturday newspapers. Krasnik: “They’re focusing on our principal target group: highly educated people with broad interests and who love to read. For that reason, we can’t allow ourselves to be complacent.”
“Culture, knowledge and history – those are things that we and our readers find important.”
Since Krasnik took over as editor-in-chief five years ago, Weekendavisen has dealt with more topical subjects. The paper was also given a makeover and in 2021, it was awarded the title of ‘best designed newspaper’ by The Society for News Design. The two innovations, combined with the trusted top-quality journalism, paid off: the number of copies rose by 6,000 to nearly 47,000.
The newspaper also demonstrated its idiosyncrasy in its choice of new design. While many newspapers switched to tabloid format, Weekendavisen’s cultural supplement instead adopted the larger, old-fashioned broadsheet style. “Management asked: is that what you really want? We were quite sure. It’s just much better for form and content,” says Krasnik.
A minor revolution
The challenge now for Weekendavisen is to secure loyal readers online as well, without abandoning its recipe for success based on in-depth journalism. One-fifth of subscribers read the newspaper exclusively online. They include many students who, according to Krasnik, continually have to be lured back to the app and the website. For this reason, the weekly will soon be posting a daily commentary online.
And reviews are published online before they’ve appeared in the print newspaper – a minor revolution. “You’ll sit and read a newspaper for half an hour or an hour, but our digital readers come and go. This means that you have to keep offering something new, as otherwise they’ll run away at some point. We have to be there for them every day, without losing sight of our well-known recipe.”