“Without comments, any news site gets a certain PDF feel”

Dagens Nyheter (DN), Sweden’s biggest morning newspaper, has been one the first Twingly partners to integrate our widget solution into its website, back in early 2007. Today, five years later, we spoke with Björn Hedensjö, Head of Digital at DN, about how Twingly worked out for them, his view on the importance of blogs and comments as well as about what’s next for DN regarding social media.

DN was Twingly’s first client and integrated the widget in February 2007. What was the impact of that partnership and with what thoughts do you look back on 5 years of having incoming blog links showing next to your articles?
I started at DN in 2009, but the people working with digital there before me did a great job, and the Twingly partnership is a good example. The impact was big then and today we’re still a very natural environment for bloggers, and it’s important for us to put the incoming links in prominent positions on the site.

How has the role of the blogosphere changed for DN during the past years, and how important is it today?
I think it’s as important or more important today than it was a few years ago, despite the “competition” from microblogs and Facebook. I really feel blogs contribute in a unique way when they’re at their best, with in-depth coverage of current issues.

How much do you at DN actually work together with the blogosphere? What ways do you see for the future to leverage blogs even more for your site?
I wouldn’t say we work very actively with the blogosphere, but we link to blogs in articles when it’s relevant and of course all editors read loads of blogs. Also the Twingly partnership is important when it comes to tying us closer to the blogosphere. A senior editor of ours, Hasse Rosén, has recently started working with social and interactivity issues and eventually we’ll see some exciting results from that.

How valuable are reader comments for your web site?
Very important. Without them any news site get a certain, uncanny PDF feel.

If readers want to comment on one of your articles, they need to log in with Facebook, OpenID or a DN.se account. Do you find that to be the best solution to keep the quality of comments up?
It’s not the best solution, but it has proven to be a step in the right direction for us, I don’t think there are any easy or general solutions that fit all. We have plenty of ideas in the backlog, one being a rating or ‘like’ system, where users rate each others comments. That has been very successful on other news sites. Recently we also started working actively to encourage good comments by highlighting them, perhaps writing new articles based on them. But many things could be done to make it better.

How do you see DN develop in the future in regards to social media?
A closer Facebook integration is not an unlikely next step.

How will that look?
A little bit too early to say!

While there hardly seems to be anybody without a Facebook account nowadays, Twitter is still only a niche phenomenon in Sweden. Do you think that will change in the near future?
No, I think Twitter in Sweden is pretty much established as a meeting place for a tiny, influential minority. It hasn’t changed much since I got my Twitter account in 2008.

How much time do you personally spend with social media while at work?
Depends, if I have a not so busy day, which is rare, I allow myself to just enjoy them. Other days it’s strictly work, but I check Twitter and Facebook regularly.

What are the biggest trends in online journalism that you especially look forward to be able to work with at DN?
Open data services and quick, simple and direct ways to broadcast news. A colleague of mine recently shot, edited and published a very professional clip from a bus accident in minutes, all via his iPhone.

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