Oslo pays for ‘good press’ in ‘Monocle’

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The City of Oslo has shelled out nearly NOK 2 million (USD 308,000) for what amounts to an advertising supplement in the trendy international magazine Monocle. It comes in the form of one of the magazine’s “city surveys,” written by two of the magazine’s journalists, but their magazine has been paid for a “survey” that’s highly promotional in nature.

“The goal is to show off Oslo in an attractive channel to make the city better known internationally,” Einar Holthe told newspaper Aftenposten. Holthe is one of the founders of the Oslo coffee bar Fuglen and also works with international media on behalf of Oslo Business Region (OBR), a wholly owned entity of The City of Oslo that aims to promote entrepreneurship, innovation and promote Oslo internationally.

OBR reported in a press release Sunday that it co-funded 70 percent of what Monocle charged to created the “city survey” for Oslo, which Aftenposten reported to be around NOK 2 million, along with external partners. OBR and its partners are likely happy with Monocole’s own glowing description of its Oslo city survey: “From forest to fjord: The best that Norway’s dynamic capital has to offer.”

Newspaper Aftenposten reported that Oslo officials, despite facing major problems trying to absorb a rapidly growing population in a climate of record high real estate prices and lagging infrastructure improvements, were keen to market and promote the city to readers of Monocle, whom the magazine claims are highly educated and interested in international affairs, design, fashion, business and travel. “Oslo’s international businesses have a hard time attracting highly educated foreign labour and Monocle can reach those target groups who are highly educated and internationally oriented,” Holthe explained.
Aftenposten reported that the Monocle journalists were in Oslo in August and visited those who had hired them to write their “Oslo City Survey.”

They reportedly were treated well, visiting many bars and restaurants and, of course, the new and high-brow Tjuvholmen development on Oslo’s waterfront that already has had lots of international coverage. Holthe said the journalists spoke with leaders of Oslo’s large music festivals and were expected to also focus on the hills and forests around the city and how residents use them. Readers should be aware that organizers of Oslo’s Øya music festival, the developers of Tjuvholmen, The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT), Oslo Airport, Statoil and the tourism promotion agency Visit Oslo were among those contributing towards the “city survey” project.

Oslo Business Region stressed that the Monocle “City Survey” team had editorial freedom and that it would be made clear that the city itself paid for their coverage. Critical questions about thorny issues in the city weren’t expected to be raised in the survey, however, apart from perhaps some tips for further improvement.

“The risk that they’d write anything negative was small,” Holthe, who also has won lots of international acclaim for his own coffee bar, told Aftenposten. “They know that this is something we’re paying for, at the same time we want an analytical look at our city.”
Several of Norway’s Nordic neighbours have already bought “surveys” from Monocle, including Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Rio de Janeiro and Singapore.

The article was first publsish at newsinenglish.no and written by Nina Berglund