Published 2014-09-09

BT’s municipality merger app a hit

Bergens Tidende’s (BT) interactive map that let the readers decide how municipalities in Norway should be has become an instant hit.

25,000 municipalities, 30,000 shares, and 350,000 page views. The Norwegian Government wants fewer municipalities, and Bergens Tidende (BT) let its readers beat Prime Minister Erna Solberg to the post. The solution was #kommunebygger, an interactive map where readers can decide how the municipalities should be merged and to immediately see how their suggestions would affect population figures, financial position, and policy.

The news developers in BT’s editorial department had hoped that the readers would be drawn into a ‘game’ and want to try out and explore the alternatives in their area of the map; a way of thinking inspired by strategy games.

Pointed out potential conflicts

The main point was that the readers should be presented with relevant texts and data that said something about what conflicts might arise if their municipality was merged with a neighboring municipality.
This required extensive work in selecting data and automatically creating texts and comparisons to help readers relate to the figures.

Wanted to start a debate

Ever since the idea was conceived, the focus for the editorial team was that this should be something that people would want to share and discuss in social media. Allowing readers to give their municipality a name and a unique link was therefore a key element.
The idea was that personifying municipalities would make the map more shareable and thus generate more traffic back to #kommunebygger on

Spread like wildfire

It did not take long for the service to spread on Facebook and Twitter.
In the course of the first few days, #kommunebygger generated over 23,000 likes/shares/comments on Facebook.

A week later, the figure has passed 30,000, and more than 6,500 Facebook comments have been posted in discussions on merged municipalities.
This animation shows how municipality-merging spread throughout the country from its launch Tuesday morning to Friday morning.

From 428 to 25,000 municipalities

Norwegians have created more than 25,000 new, merged municipalities using #kommunebygger, and every one of Norway’s 428 municipalities are represented.

Naturally, Vestlandet and the Bergen region have been most active, but there has also been a lot of activity around the Oslo and Stavanger regions.

During the most active period, around 1,000 users were using #kommunebygger simultaneously.
The total time spent by readers on merging municipalities using BT’s map is equivalent to 225 days – or around three full-time equivalents.

High mobile share

From its launch to Monday morning, the service has generated around 350,000 page views.
Around 40 percent of the traffic comes from mobile devices, and 16 percent from tablets.
Of viewers who began clicking on the map, 11 percent completed and submitted their suggestions and as much as 25 percent of those remained in the #kommunebygger universe by clicking on the link ‘… and perhaps you would like to create another municipality’.

More than 40,000 readers clicked on ‘Create your own municipality’ when they reached a page that had been created by another reader.