The Contact (Kontakten) is one of Sweden’s oldest company newsletters, with over 60 years of uninterrupted publication under the same name. It was created to establish contact channels between salaried employees in what was already a large company. From its modest start in January 1939, it has survived many adventure and mishaps.
“Contact should be sufficient as a statement of purpose,” wrote the responsible publisher Nils A Sterne in the first issue. “I know that Contact can count on your interest, and I hope that it will be an honor to its name and enjoyable and useful to us all.”
The logotype consisted of the word Contact with two solid lines above and below, symbolizing two relay coils, with a closed contact to the left. In the first version, it was open, which was criticized, since it must be closed to provide contact. The relay coils remained in the logotype until the late 1960s.
From 1945 Contact was no longer just a concern for salaried employees, it was distributed to all Ericsson employees. As a result, the newsletter’s appearance changed. It grew in format from A5 to A4, the layout became more professional with more illustrations added. The contents were expanded and the tone of the newsletter, which up until then had been fairly informal succumbed to a more journalistic approach. Contact became a wide-ranging employee newsletter, its objective to ensure communication from management to the employees, as well as between employees at various levels.
The make-over was a success. Well into the 1980s Contact was still the same kind of employee newsletter it had been since 1945. Sports results, leisure activities, health care and working life culture were recurring themes. However, space was also devoted to technical background articles and market reports.
In the first issue for 1986, for example, an article was published with the suggestive title “Explosive market for mobile telephony. 40 billion at stake and Ericsson is first.” With its 300,000 subscribers, or 60 percent of the world market, Ericsson could already call itself the world’s leading mobile telephone company. The article described the enormous opportunities that the expected growth would mean for the company.
Things were different 47 years previously. In the first issue of Contact, under the heading “A record year,” Arvid Westling wrote:
“1938 was an unusually good year for our company. We shall avoid speculation about the more distant future. Although demand for telephone materials can be considered favorable even over the long term, it is also the case that telephone services are not among mankind’s basic needs, despite the fact that the economic stabilization that is so important for us is expected to create more favorable prospects now than previously.”
History, however, would show that telephone services would eventually be counted among basic human needs.
During the 1980s, Contact changed its appearance several times. Publication of the English edition began and in 1988 Contact was published as a tabloid for the first time. A growing proportion of its content consisted of industry news, technical articles and market reports
In addition to Contact, numerous newsletters were published by the business area, which over time took over the role of portraying working life culture that the corporate newsletter became a more or less anonymous supplement.
A clearer focus on corporate issues was evident in the early 1990s. Contact gradually regained it position as the common forum for all Ericsson employees. In 1994, the frequency of publication was doubled to 20 issues per year. At the same time, the popular New Jobs section was added in which available positions within Ericsson were advertised.
The business area newsletters with their different orientations were distributed once a month together with Contact. In conjunction with the dissolution of the business area organization on January 1, 1997, however, the business area newsletters were integrated into Contact and ceased to exist as independent publications.
At the beginning of the new century, Contact has few similarities with the first issues. The newsletter has developed into a company and industry newspaper that is occasionally quoted in similar publications and other media. The editorial board is a team of professional journalists, while spontaneous contributions from employees seldom appear.
Total circulation is about 100,000 copies of which the English edition Contact accounts for 45,000. The paper-based edition is published as a 32-page tabloid every other week, while the Web version is updated even more frequently.
Author: Thord Andersson & Kari Malmström