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Finnish news moving behind pay wall

The introduction of value-added tax on newspaper subscriptions in Finland has not badly hurt circulation figures. Even so, worries about falling profit margins and online competition have media houses cutting jobs and tightening belts.

Mies lukee sanomalehteä.
Image: Mikko Kuusisalo / YLE

Fears that a 9 percent value-added tax would lead to a collapse in subscriptions so far look to have been unfounded. The blow was in part softened by an upsurge in long-term subscriptions just before the tax was imposed. And, people still read newspapers.

Even so, media houses are worried about what happens next.

Over the past year, newspapers have cut more than 100 journalists from staffs, leading to protests and walk-outs at some papers, but more cutbacks are likely to be seen.

Profit margins are falling. While there are readers, a sluggish economy means that advertising revenues are down.

According to the Finnish Newspapers Association, almost ever Finn reads one or more newspapers -- either hard copy or online, or both. But making money online is a challenge.

The nation's leading daily, Helsingin Sanomat, has just decided to move over to a service that allows people to read a limited number of articles during a limited time period. After that, accessing content comes at a price.

Many newspapers are also looking to save printing costs by introducing smaller, tabloid formats. Some regional papers have made the move, as will Helsingin Sanomat. It's a trend that may sweep away the traditional broadsheet.

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