People who knew and worked with Stieg Larsson report that he was obsessed with details. He also had a singular preoccupation. The actions of right-wing extremists - at work in Sweden - had long concerned him. If he started his own magazine, he could privately investigate - then publicly expose - the activities of such groups (like Neo-Nazis).
Stieg already had significant background on the subject. In 1991, he co-authored “The Extreme Right” (Extremhogern), tracing the rise of such right-wing groups. His first issue of Expo, released in August of 1995, made clear how Stieg planned to shape the magazine’s stories. It would report on:
anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and racist tendencies in Swedish society.
During the first year of Expo’s life, Sweden experienced continued violence from Neo-Nazis who opposed (among other things) growing multiculturalism in the country. Daniel Poohl, Expo’s current editor, tell us:
In 1995, the white-power music scene was at its peak and Sweden was the world's largest producer of hate propaganda. The same year, seven people were murdered in Sweden in Nazi-related violence.
Although most Swedes paid little, or no, attention to Expo, it was followed by one group - the very people Stieg was targeting. Neo-Nazis did not appreciate Expo’s articles.
Soon the office which printed Expo was vandalized and newsstands, which sold the magazine, endured smashed windows and spray-painted walls. By the summer of 1996, Sweden’s two largest newspapers gave Expo’s current issue wider circulation:
As soon as the first issue of Expo was published, the magazine became the target of an extensive hate campaign from neo-Nazi groups. Staff members and retailers received death threats and the printing factory used by Expo was vandalized.
All of this was the subject of much media attention in the summer of 1996, when the largest Swedish national evening newspapers Aftonbladet and Expressen also decided to publish 800,000 copies of Expo as a supplement.
Expo was not a money-making venture, so Stieg and his colleagues could not quit their “day jobs.” Larsson remained at TT but dedicated a great deal of time to investigating and writing for his magazine. By 1998, several of his colleagues - who were also working “for free” - could no longer keep up the pace:
The first group of editorial staff members "retired" in 1998. By then, the reporters - working on a voluntary basis - had pretty much crashed and burned, having been employed full-time elsewhere and dedicating all free time to Expo.
To keep the magazine going, Stieg and two other staffers faced hard choices. They decided to make Expo a part of another magazine:
In April 1998, three original staff members remained. Together, they made the decision to give the [Expo] foundation and the magazine a major overhaul. Social commentator Kurdo Baksi stepped in and suggested that Expo become a supplement to his own magazine, Svartvitt ["Black/White"], and thus offered a way forward. It wasn't an ideal solution, but it gave Expo the opportunity to keep making its voice heard. (Quoted passages from Expo's website.)
For Stieg, it was always about making his voice heard. When Svartvitt ended in 2003, after fifteen years of publishing, Expo was on its own again. Larsson was back to soliciting funds for the Expo Foundation, which at least funded the publication (even if its employees weren’t paid).
Growing weary of begging for funds, Stieg followed his father’s advice to “do something commercial.” He decided to write a series of books about a journalist (named Mikael Blomkvist) who owned and operated “Millenium” (a magazine which investigated, and exposed, right-wing extremists).