As we enter the 2020s, Otava’s mission is largely the same as it was in 1890. We no longer speak of “civilising Finns”, but rather of opening up new worlds. Instead of doling out knowledge in a teacher-like fashion, we share our readers’ curiosity and seek out new experiences together. Otava invites all Finns to come together and share meaningful encounters, and to aim high.
But our original idea still holds true: sharing culture is a fundamental source of wellbeing, experiences and insight. Take a peek at our history and see what we are aiming for in the future!
Towards another new destination
Otavamedia is preparing to move into its new premises in Tripla, Pasila.
The modernisation of Otava’s premises on Uudenmaankatu is approaching completion after several years of work. The renovation respects the historical heritage of the building.
Otava’s Book Club has been transferred to Suomalainen Kirjakauppa. Thanks to this closer cooperation, the Book Club is now accessible to even more people, not only online, but also at physical locations.
Digitalisation serves consumers
Nettiauto.com, a part of NettiX, launched a consumer-to-consumer service that enables private individuals to buy and sell vehicles – over the phone, for instance.
Otava Educational Materials, originally established as the School Department, was transformed into Otava Learning. It launched the first audiobooks for upper secondary school students on streaming services.
Suomalainen Kirjakauppa returned to its roots by opening a new flagship store at its old location at Aleksanterinkatu 15 in Helsinki. The cash registers are located in exactly the same spot they were 90 years ago! Annual sales amounted to 4.8 million books. The bookstore also expanded through acquisitions.
Otava Ltd became the largest owner of Alma Media Corporation
Solid balance, growth through acquisitions
Otavamedia seized the opportunities opened up by the rise of own media and acquired MCI Press and Alma 360. Together with Kynämies and DeCo Media, they formed Otavamedia OMA, a customer communications partner for own media.
The Suuri Toivelaulukirja series of song books came to Otava due to the acquisition of F-Publishing for Otava Publishing Company Ltd. Moreeni, which specialises in non-fiction, was also acquired that same year.
Safeguarding the future of the book trade
Otava added a news service to its range when NettiX acquired a majority holding in Ampparit Ltd.
Otava acquired Suomalainen Kirjakauppa, established in 1912, from the Sanoma Group, thereby securing a nationwide distribution channel for the whole book publishing industry.
Otavamedia acquired the communications agency Tietoputki Ltd and its partner DeCo Media Ltd, which specialises in video production.
Restructuring in response to changing times
The Group was reorganised on 1 April 2010. Olli Reenpää became the full-time Chair of the Group’s Board of Directors and Alexander Lindholm took the helm as Group CEO. Otava-Kuvalehdet Ltd was renamed Otava Ltd and Yhtyneet Kuvalehdet Ltd became Otavamedia Ltd.
The activities of the Great Finnish Book Club were transferred to Otavamedia.
Online business and small publishers
Yhtyneet Kuvalehdet Ltd acquired a majority holding in Suomen Golfpiste Ltd.
The Group paved the way for its future success by acquiring the e-commerce specialist NettiX Ltd.
Otava started buying small publishers to diversify its publication programme. The first acquiree was Like Publishing Ltd.
The age structure of the Finnish population was evident in, for instance, the launch of Viva magazine, aimed at adult Finns.
Into our own hands
The corporate privatisation of Otava, which began in 1991, was completed. The Group is fully owned by the Reenpää family and the Otava Book Foundation.
Books to listen to
Otava started publishing audiobooks to cater to the broad-scale changes in reading and use of time. The popularity of audiobooks has continued to grow. E-books were included in the publication programme in 2010.
Into the customer communications business and the divestment of Rautakirja
Publishing operations were incorporated as Otava Publishing Company Ltd and the Group’s parent company was renamed Otava-Kuvalehdet Ltd.
Rautakirja Corporation’s shares were sold to Kesko.
Otava ventured into the customer communications business when Yhtyneet Kuvalehdet Ltd bought a majority holding in Kynämies Ltd. In the following year, the publication of Kesko’s Pirkka magazine was transferred to Kynämies.
Digital educational materials
Otava Educational Materials entered the digital era when it published its first CD-rom on the theoretical content of the upper secondary school curriculum.
Otava started the publication of digital educational materials on a larger scale at the end of the 1990s, initially for teachers. The company launched e-books for upper secondary school students in 2013.
Otava started its withdrawal from the stock exchange
Otava’s corporate privatisation began.
Smiles in Pasila
Yhtyneet Kuvalehdet acquired Lehtimiehet in 1988 – thanks to this, Otavamedia publishes magazines such as Tekniikan Maailma and Hymy (“Smile”).
A new office building was completed for Yhtyneet Kuvalehdet in Pasila. It was honoured as the Concrete Building of the Year in 1986.
The launch of the Book Club
At the beginning of the 1970s, the company’s strong new management had overcome the financial difficulties of the late 1960s.
Otava’s Editorial Manager was the poet, novelist and dramatist Paavo Haavikko.
Otava, WSOY and Tammi established the Great Finnish Book Club in 1969.
A new generation takes the reins
Kari Reenpää died in tragic circumstances. Erkki Laurila became the Chair of Otava Publishing Company. Heikki A. Reenpää stepped in as CEO and Olli Reenpää as Deputy CEO.
Otava rejoined the Board of Directors of Yhtyneet Kuvalehdet – the company had resigned in 1961 after a dispute with WSOY.
The great book wars
Hannu Salama’s Juhannustanssit (Midsummer Dance) caused a major scandal and led to a court case due to its perceived blasphemy.
Paavo Rintala’s Sissiluutnantti (The Long-Distance Patrol) caused offence, partly due to its depiction of the women’s paramilitary auxiliary. Generals came to the Uudenmaankatu office to express their discontent.
The book wars of the 1960s are a part of literary history.
A glorious head office building
Under the leadership of Jorma Reenpää, a new office building was completed for Yhtyneet Kuvalehdet at Hietalahdenranta 13.
A new printing house in Keuruu
A new printing house and residential area were completed in Keuruu. Book printing gradually moved there from Helsinki.
The cream of literary magazines
Otava, WSOY and the Finnish Cultural Foundation established Parnasso, which became one of the biggest literary magazines in the Nordic countries. It was acquired by Yhtyneet Kuvalehdet in 1968 and is still published.
Stock exchange years
Otava Publishing Company was a listed company during this period.
Exceptional years for editorial staff
During the war years, women played a larger role in editorial offices: women edited and wrote newspapers and magazines while men were on the front.
Pekka Peitsi (Urho Kekkonen’s pseudonym, later president of Finland) turned Suomen Kuvalehti magazine into a leading opinion-maker.
Advertising revenue dwindled to next to nothing. Circulation expanded and the machinery stock deteriorated.
The company posted a loss in 1945. Paper rationing began.
Festivities in the shadow of war
F.E. Sillanpää, an Otava author, won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Yhtyneet Kuvalehdet moved from the Stockmann attic to the Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Company’s building at Bulevardi 7.
The company acquired Olympia magazine in preparation for the Helsinki Olympics of 1940. Only one issue of the magazine was published before the Winter War broke out.
With an eye on the long term
The Kotiliesi Godparent Club, which remains active to this day, was established. It celebrated its first birthday at the Presidential Palace by invitation of Kaisa Kallio, the wife of the president.
The Marssilaulu (March Song) was written based on a poem by Frans Emil Sillanpää that had been published by Suomen Kuvalehti.
Writer Mika Waltari joined Suomen Kuvalehti as a subeditor. He wrote a booklet entitled A Finnish Saturday Evening to attract potential new subscribers. It is now a rarity.
United in the Stockmann attic
The depression years and the growing popularity of radio gnawed into the profitability of magazines. Otava and WSOY joined forces in magazine publication. They established Yhtyneet Kuvalehdet Ltd (United Magazines Ltd), with Lauri Jäntti from WSOY as the Chair of its Board of Directors and Jorma Reenpää from Otava as Managing Director.
The company first operated out of premises located behind Otava’s mailroom on Köydenpunojankatu, but soon moved to the fifth floor of the Stockmann Department Store.
The core magazines were Suomen Kuvalehti and Kotiliesi. The first joint publication was Seura magazine.
A major player
Otava could now be called a large publisher. Its sales of magazines and books generated revenue of 37 million marks.
The number of employees more than doubled to 420 from the beginning of the decade. The number of book titles published also doubled.
From difficulties to rotogravure printing
Finland’s first rotogravure press started producing Suomen Kuvalehti magazine at the Hietalahdenranta printing house owned by Otava. The rotary press was modernised in 1928.
Kirjavälitys Ltd was established. Its shareholders were Otava, other publishers and bookstores.
The 16-page Suomen Kuvalehti ran into trouble during the war. The new editor-in-chief appointed by Alvar Renqvist, L.M. Viherjuuri, steered the magazine through its difficulties and stayed at the helm until 1936.
The era of pictures
Otava started the regular publication of magazines by launching Suomen Kuvalehti, the first success story in magazine publication.
The magazine was printed at Uudenmaankatu on an old sheet-fed press. The print run in 1918 was 25,000 copies.
Its success was driven by the popular thirst for knowledge after the World War and its use of pictures, which had rarely been featured in magazines before this.
Rautatiekirjakauppa Ltd (chain of kiosks), later shortened to Rautakirja Ltd, was established on Otava’s premises, with the largest book and periodical publishers as its shareholders.
Entering the book printing business
Otava started up its book printing operations when a new wing was completed at Uudenmaankatu 12 – it provided the company with its own typesetting, printing and binding facilities.
First own building
New offices were completed for the company at Uudenmaankatu 10. This building is a granite castle in Art Nouveau style, evocative of National Romanticism. The building was designed by the architects Karl Lindahl and Valter Thomé.
These reformist architects sought to create a complete work of art with a harmonious appearance and decor.
Union of material and intellectual capital
Otava Publishing Company was established on the initiative of Eliel Aspelin and Hannes Gebhard at a meeting held at the Arkadia Theatre in May. The founders saw the need for a new publishing company that would be a union of material and intellectual capital. There were 230 founding shareholders.
The cultural and educational purpose of the new company was to foster Finnish-language national literature and disseminate it to a wide audience. The books had to be sold at a reasonable price, while ensuring that the company’s finances would be on a sustainable footing “for the sake of the whole affair.”
The founding shareholder Alvar Renqvist was appointed as the Managing Director in 1893. He continued to develop the company.