Alternatively, this could be titled – Why the Moose? – A brief history of how people learned about the service formerly known as Aftenposten’s News in English.
In the early days of the service – or to be bitterly honest, throughout virtually its entire lifetime – there was nothing resembling promotion from the powers that were.
In its first incarnation, NiE had been highly profitable, providing roughly Twitter sized news items to screens at Oslo’s Gardermoen Airport and on the airport express train. When Aftenposten lost this contract, NiE became purely an Internet news site, and a foreign language experiment that was generally viewed with some suspicion somewhere in management.
Growing mainly by word of mouth, a few lucky human interest stories revealed the path to wider attention. The first unexpected spike of traffic came from a story about how a schoolteacher lost a bet with her class, and as promised, took a bath in yogurt to reward them for outperforming her expectations. The main interest in this story was traced back to one Fark.com, a now legendary source for all things ‘not news’ that are in fact what most people online can’t resist reading.
After a link to a story wandered into an English language site with a large audience, large flocks would descend on NiE. Some of the visitors remained loyal readers – they came for the yogurt-dipped teacher, but stayed for the novelty of keeping up with Norway. With this lesson learned, an eye was kept on potentially popular stories, and one could clearly see that animals and royals were always hard to resist.
The service maintained Aftenposten’s serious, quality paper line, but this was also, after all, the Internet. You know what I mean, some things you just have to have a quick click on, and any newspaper sensitive to the medium is more informal online. So a few news slots a week were reserved for some ‘Only i Norway’ kind of fun.
I actively cultivated contacts with sites that showed interest in certain topics, and we gradually had a network of sites that kept an eye on us for a variety of reasons – some because they were fascinated in Norway’s politics, some for environmental or animal preservation issues, and many just for the occasional odd tale.
Drew Curtis, the founder of Fark, seemed to have a soft spot for what soon developed into a kind of cult connection to moose news, which always sparked Monty Pythonish tangents on møøse on that site’s volatile and wickedly funny forums. Drew even paid the newsroom a visit on one of his European jaunts.
But the story that would be legend, and made the potential of News in English jaw-droppingly clear, appeared late in 2002. Some friends on the news desk rang us in the evening to say that something incredible was happening – a single English news item was generating more traffic that the rest of the Norwegian site combined!
This amazing story was: Young mother nursed orphaned pups
and it was picked up the popular news site Drudge Report. This story not only produced the kind of traffic whole Norwegian news sites would kill for, it continued to produce spikes for years to come as it was rediscovered and passed round for another circuit on the web. The story developed further: Woman who nursed puppies has no regrets and Puppies thrive after woman nursed them.
This success sowed the seeds of the eventual downfall of the service as well, but that is another story. For now, I just want to reminisce over a few of my very favorite hits from the ‘Only in Norway’ archives.
My choice of greatest moose tale ever would be Moose move proves fatal. Sure, we’ve had them drunk, dangerous and even falling out of the sky, but this one has tragedy, pathos.
And one of the longest-lived curiosities has to be this one – people rang in for years trying to find out more about Conan, every the time his story gained a new lease of life on the ‘net: Dog robs gas station
But most of the time, it was hard news. Really.