Five trends in advertising

Technology and new user behaviors are changing the game of advertising. With a range of new opportunities and tougher competition marketeers and sales people need to be more innovative than ever when understanding, reaching and engaging with customers. Kathrine Brøsholen, VP Schibsted Sales, guides us through five trends that are changing the business.

With a complex buying environment and more players on the advertising market the content is becoming more crucial in order to tailor it to create value. New technology that gives us insight has made this possible and it is already giving us new ways to develop products and services. Today Schibsted reaches more than 200 million people every month from Malaysia, to Brazil, Mexico and Norway. Since the new technology has helped bring the world closer together, the opportunities are many.

Insight has been used for years with the classic packaging of products, like buying a newspaper and getting offered a bottle of water, or buying a magazine and being offered a Snicker bar. The product offered matched what was presumed as the reader profile, and illustrates an easy way to use insight towards conversion of a product. This will all play out more personalized, as the web is now all about the user ID and it will be important to offer the right product in relation to the right content, at the right time, when the user is in the right mood.

Award winning examples

A modern version of using this insight is driven by technology and the ability to predict the reader profile and to actually get the user to buy a product when clicking on the online ad. There are already many innovative award-winning examples where Schibsted together with advertisers are using new technology and insight to create solutions that secure an effective communication. The products or services that are offered are adjusted to the user’s daily needs, where additional data like geography are giving a more accurate prediction to reach the right user at the right time. For the users, the benefits are convenient and are making the buying process more efficient, since they don’t need to contact the suppliers to get a product delivered; now you can even buy a car on the Internet.

The same change is also happening for business to business sales, where on an average 57 per cent of the purchase process is handled without contacting the supplier. For companies with high digital maturity it’s up to 90 per cent. This indicates that the traditional local competition is about to change for many industries as many offline industries are going online.

International competition is raising the bar

International players are now collaborating to create tools that will make it easier to buy and sell towards a broader audience through an automated buying process within the media industry. This means that the international competition is raising the bar, with a new level of technical solutions and storage of data and a new world of context.

The media landscape might be seen as complex, but there is still just a seller side and a buyer side. On the seller side there’s the advertiser, the media agency and their trading desk and on the other side is the publisher with the consumer reading the news and using the online services.

For the B2B sales and the digital advertising it’s crucial to create greater process efficiencies that drive more commerce, and enable deeper engagement with consumers.


We can sum up five trends that are driving and improving these changes:

1. Automated processes

The automated process has been at various stages since the end of the 80’s with focus on how to minimize waste, to create more value for the customer, with fewer resources and lower prices. The same efficiency is now reaching the media industry where the online ad spending in Europe are on course to surpass outlays on any other media platform by 2018, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe (IAB Europe) and IHS Technology.

Automated or “programmatic” ad buying will be the main driver of this growth. Previously too many players have been involved in executing online advertising, but this is now changing due to speed and cost. The efficiency will continue to develop through open ecosystem so more companies and agencies can connect to streamline the workflow.

The greatest change with connecting ad technologies and data, is that the process involving media planning, buying and selling will be simplified. This means that more people and specialized skills can be dedicated toward the creative side and new insights can be used to engage and create effective ads that drive commerce, like native advertising, sponsorships, content marketing etc.

A report from IAB Europe verifies the benefits with programmatic advertising. 454 marketers were asked, “Why and how programmatic is emerging as key to real-time marketing success”. 54 per cent replied that it improved their ad targeting, 50 per cent said it enabled them to react to market circumstances in real-time. In addition 35 per cent related it to reduced waste and created value in relation to personalized ads, time to market and tracking of the campaign.

2. Personalized experience

Since the cookies, in time, will disappear and the open ecosystems will enable companies to join forces, we will see more login solutions for users to get access to full-service functionality. This will improve user data and will give an even broader access to a personalized experience for the ad targeting. Among most important factors behind a successful advertising campaign, targeting is ranked number one, where traditionally budget and creativity has been considered to be the most important factors behind a successful campaign.

3. Across digital touchpoints

The access to user data is setting new trends within the targeting and real-time marketing and is therefore evolving – marketeers are more focused on creating fresh, timely content to reach consumers across digital touchpoints. This is also the biggest challenge. In a report from IAB for the US Fortune 500, CMOs stated that reaching the consumer across digital touchpoints and finding a steady stream of relevant content is rated as top two most important challenges.

In addition mobile keeps expanding when desktops ads are expected to decrease.

4. SMEs will drive more growth

Today, it’s easier to establish a start-up than at any other time in our history, and it is likely to only get easier in time. In the EU small and medium enterprise are defined as the backbone of Europe’s economy as they represent 99 per cent of all businesses in the EU. In the past five years, they have created around 85 per cent of all new jobs and the European Commission consider SMEs and entrepreneurship as key to ensure economic growth, innovation, job creation and social integration in the EU. This will have an enormous impact on local trade, as the small and medium sized enterprises are established locally with a need for being visible and convert their product and services in a cost-effective way.

5. Sales experience is crucial

The great news with the market changes is that the sales experiences are crucial for the B2B sales. The consumers are also actually saying that they would like to speak to a physical person, when picking up their newly bought car. With more consumer data being generated and when insight is the key to create value, there is a need to have an early advice on the choice of ad solution. This is what sales professionals in Schibsted are doing today. They challenge their customers to really think differently and they teach them something new. They lead the purchasing process with insights that helps companies uncover problems and opportunities that they probably didn’t even know were there. Sales professionals who advance and challenge their customer’s thinking have a big impact. In fact, research has found that across all industries in B2B sales, 53 per cent of customer loyalty is driven solely by the quality of the sales experience and the way sales professionals are tailoring insights to create value in customer interactions.

“The media landscape might be seen as complex, but there is still just a seller side and a buyer side”

Schibsted’s vision is to enable advertisers to reach a precise audience by using all of Schibsted’s valuable data in local markets on a global scale. Together with our partners we will be able to pursue clear goals, secure risk and investments for the campaigns in a more digital future.

From transaction to relation

We’ve all heard of personalized content and ads. But how far have we really come, and what is the vision? Robin Hjelte, CRM Manager, shares his view on how to go from mere customer transactions to building user relations – without being annoying or creepy.

A light tap from your watch suggests that the store you are walking by offers a great bargain on the jacket you were looking at online a couple of days ago. When you enter, the store clerk has prepared the jacket in your size and favorite color for you to try on. It’s not cheap, but within your clothes budget. A quick glance at your phone confirms that this is the best deal on the jacket you can get in the area. You confirm the purchase with a touch to your watch.

As a little extra, on your way out the store offers you a complimentary snack, which is great, since you were beginning to feel a little peckish. It’s your favorite kind, and you have just the time to sit down for five minutes before you have to get to your next meeting. An excellent opportunity to check up on the latest news.

A staggering amount of data

This little scenario is pretty standard science fiction fare. Nothing too shocking, exciting or creepy. But of course the amount of personal data and computing power required to achieve an experience like this is staggering. Interests, positioning, blood sugar, income, calendar. Were this scene taken from a film it would likely move quickly into dystopian territory; intrusive ads, surveillance, hacking.

We’re clearly not there yet. But regardless of any personal opinions one might have on sharing personal data, the age old fact remains: the odds of providing a great experience to a prospective customer improve considerably the more a salesman knows the customer. He can anticipate needs, give advice, make suggestions. Furthermore a good salesman knows that investing in the relationship will pay back over time. This is also the basic logic behind loyalty programs of all scales – relationship building, turning the ability to build customer value over time into a competitive advantage.


Picking up on every signal

A salesman instead constantly following customers around, interpreting every glance as an invitation to push any random product laying around and jumping at every opportunity to close a sale would not be very successful. Yet, this is arguably what the online experience has turned into. Personalization and targeting in practice often means picking up on and acting immediately on every signal, no matter how weak, by pushing ads that sometimes follow the user around in endless efforts to retarget.

For ads this can be annoying, but the same logic applied to content recommendations can arguably lead to truly dystopian consequences, such as “filter bubbles”, echo chambers and confirmation bias.

Fortunately, personalization holds far greater potential. But in order to realize this potential, we need to move from treating every single contact, or touchpoint, with users in isolation, as an opportunity for a hard sell, to viewing them as a part of a whole, where we build relationship and user value over time. In short, applying common business sense to our digital user relations and becoming more like the good salesman. This is possible with better data, more advanced tools and sophisticated algorithms. And, increasingly, users expect us to deliver on this experience. A number of major trends from the last couple of years have influenced user expectations:

  • The timeline – the endless stream of personalized content pioneered by the likes of Facebook and Twitter has become the primary interaction model for services with frequently updated content. No two users have the same exact experience, and user generated content, professional content and ads share the same space. Whatever finds its way into a user’s stream needs to be relevant in order to stand a chance
  • The identified web – more and more services require login, which makes seamless experiences across devices possible. Native advertising and content marketing – ads and commercial messages share the same space as other content and need to be as engaging and relevant in order to compete for user attention.
  • Wearables and the Internet of Things – means an increasing number of touchpoints with users: watches, small screen devices, health monitors, connected cars. These often interact with users in contexts that do not allow immediate conversions, but rather improve odds of conversion later. This all tells us that users expect constant updates, personalized to their liking, through mechanisms they may not fully understand but feel that they are in control of. They want a seamless experience and high quality.
    Clearly, the more touchpoints with users and the more data collected, the greater the opportunity to live up to these expectations and build valuable user relationships. Fortunately for Schibsted, as a large player with a strong local presence, we have the opportunity to collect this data because we can offer:
  • Destinations and direct traffic – already established user habits.
  • Highly valued, updated, original content – reasons for users to return frequently
  • An ecosystem of services to capitalize on key events in the customer lifecycle.
  • Trusted brands. Trust is the foundation of any relationship,
    and perhaps the hardest and most long term valuable asset
    any company can have. This is doubly important when
    handling large amounts of user data. Experience shows
    that convenience is more important than privacy concerns
    as long as there is trust. But as soon as trust is broken, this
    may be quickly reversed.

To make full use of these strengths we need to recognize that each user interaction has consequences, large or small, that either improve or worsen the commercial potential of the relationship. The trick is to subtly nudge the user over time toward long term maximization of customer value. In order to approach the challenge of building long term user relationships at Aftonbladet we have recently taken an initiative where we analyze and segment the user base based on behavior going back 12 months, tying together user profiles over time and across devices as far as possible. This means handling huge amounts of data, but it turns out to be very useful to understand usage patterns and changes in loyalty and engagement.

Monitoring small shifts

Aftonbladet’s most loyal 20 per cent of users make up a hugely disproportionate share of all page views, and an even greater proportion of revenues generated by ads and direct payments. Any changes in behavior from these users, such as them moving to a competitor for their daily news updates, have an enormous impact on revenue.

This means that even very small and slow shifts in behavior over time need to be closely monitored. In contrast, we have a considerable number of users that visit Aftonbladet less frequently than once a week. This highlights the danger of forming strategy and basing product development decisions based on averages. There is no such person as the average user, and trying to optimize for them is a certain way to make no one happy.

These are in and of themselves not extraordinary findings. In fact, it is so commonly observed in businesses that it is almost considered a natural law: the Pareto principle.

By segmenting the user base by degree of loyalty and personalizing the experience in accordance we can optimize every touchpoint for long term value, sometimes by sacrificing immediate revenue: a loyal user that is showing signs of decreasing return frequency might find a less distracting experience on their next visit. A previously infrequent user that is starting to return more often might be given some incentive to reinforce this behavior.

More specifically we are currently using this segmentation logic to identify which users we should try to convert to logged in users. By targeting users with an already loyal behavior we have the best chance of describing the benefits of logging in, as well as the greatest number of touchpoints to build the case over time. This allows us to prioritize development of logged in functionality to improve the user experience for this specific group.

“The trick is to subtly nudge the user over time toward long term maximization of customer value.”

The next step in this initiative is to further expand and improve our usage of data on our users to improve relationships. Improving loyalty over time requires that we become even more relevant. In order for long term conversion algorithms to be effective, they then need to factor in several other aspects that can be learned from behavior data:

  • Context – how is the user coming to us?
  • Interest – do we know what this user is interested in and expects to find?
  • User mode, intent – the same user may have very different goals on two separate occasions. Sometimes the user wants to be in complete control, sometimes she wants to relax and be entertained.

Using these insights will make it possible to create strong relationships with our users and to provide excellent user experiences. This is where Schibsted needs to be going, and where our ecosystem of users and services will create the most value. Without being annoying or creepy.


Facts & Figures: Digital economy

Information and communication technologies are influencing most aspects of the business world. Enjoy some statistics that highlight the digital economy's impact.

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Looking for the next big thing

In the search for new investments Schibsted Growth needs to be at the front in tech trends. These are some of the phenomena that has caught their interest lately.

Banking not banks

Banks are like print newspapers: a broad package of services and features, produced by old technology, delivered in a likeable but very costly way. Segment by segment this packaged offering is being attacked by niche players unburdened by legacy, technology and old distribution methods. In each niche the challenger can outcompete the package given focus and global scale.

As services delivered by banks are increasingly available from new providers users will discover that what they need is banking, not necessarily banks. The phone will be the bank, offering basic features such as identification and data storage. The user’s collection of integrated apps will be banking.

Desktop is the new print

We used to think that our businesses were safe once they were “digital”. Not anymore. The massive shift towards mobile will destroy valuations of some of the best known digital companies worldwide. If you are one of them, you need to prioritize mobile transformation now. The same challenges as in the print-to-digital transformation applies: You need to define the core value to your users and rebuild your business. Cramming existing interaction- and business models to the small screen will not be sufficient. And there are already some casualties of this new transformation: Search engine driven marketplaces are declining when digital engagement has moved into the app world. The million-dollar-question is how this will affect the company that defined the desktop web: Google.

From product to service

For years, we’ve focused on driving users and customers to our products on the web. Once we’ve captured their attention, we’ve monetized them with advertising, transaction fees and third party commission models. To succeed the next ten years, we have to tilt our heads 90 degrees and turn the modelaround: How do we build platforms and businesses that come to the customers when they need us?

This will force us to become truly service oriented organizations. We need to learn how we approach our users in their smartphones and on their wrists when they need us. This requires us to be both more friendly and even more relevant to our users. If we succeed, we will truly empower our users in their daily life.

Consumerization of SMEs

Since the 1980s, Microsoft, PC manufactures and business software vendors defined how we interact with digital tools. The Internet (driven by human needs) and Apple (putting the users first) have turned the model around. These days, you could scare small children (and kill small mammals) by telling them how enterprise software makes your life miserable. The small and medium enterprises never went digital though. “Digital” never helped them in the restaurant kitchen or when they redecorated a house. But today, they own a smartphone, they use Facebook 24/7 and have a 50" flat-screen running Netflix. If you want to drive your SME revenues, you need to delight them with best-in-class digital tools and products. They will demand the same simplicity and ease-of-use as your consumers.

The "multi" in multimedia is finally happening

In the coming years, content will develop into experiences that include several of our senses. Companies within gaming, sports and entertainment are already starting to offer this multi-sensory experiences in Virtual Reality. If you’re a football fan, you can enter an arena as one of the players in the squad (offered in the Netherlands and Sweden). You can smell the grass or feel when the person next to you bump in to you.

There will also be more options than ever to distribute content. The cable companies’ dominance is being eroded by social media and over-the-top (such as Netflix) services. Apple has also launched a full-frontal attack on cable companies with the new Apple TV. This will change the way we consume video streams and films in years to come – all video content will be availbale on all platforms everywhere. If you care about content, you’ll need a multi-sensory, multi-channel strategy.

E-commerce re-invented

As more and more Internet users shop online, e-commerce is evolving from “dumb” digital storefronts to fully personalized and highly relevant digital experiences where users are inspired to research, plan and purchase in new ways. Thanks to new technology, e-tailers now have the tools to optimize their inventory and their online-shops more effectively than ever before.

In the evolving ecosystem for online commerce the value chain looks very different from what it used to in the offline world. The big and large-scale retailers are being disrupted by fast moving products and services that offer users better experiences through niche focus, aggregation or innovative sourcing and shipping. Who will be the winner of consumers’ love and commerce spendings? Most likely the companies that drive and develop the best products and services based on the new technologies.

Why does ad-tech still suck?

Some people would argue that digital ads have replicated their offline ancestors for as long as they have existed. That display ads are basically print ads with additional interactive elements, online video ads are TV-spots that you can click on and podcast/audio-ads are radio spots, sometimes with an additional interactive element. In some extent this is true. We have seen rapid development of new digital content, products and services so why is the innovation and pace of development so slow in ad-formats and ad-tech? Is it because publishers, entrepreneurs and users aren’t excited about ads? And if ads are not a priority, are ads as a way of monetization in fact slowly dying?

Messaging as a platform

As Mary Meeker stated in her yearly trend report, six of the top ten most popular mobile tools are now messaging apps. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Japan’s Line, and Korea’s KakaoTalk are all setting themselves up as potential broader platforms, including e-commerce. Most remarkable, and least well understood maybe, is WeChat, the dominant messaging service in China with more than 550 million active users (MAU). In contrast to Western app strategies, WeChat put a lot of functionality in a single app. They are trying to solve as many everyday problems for their users that they possibly can. They have achieved this by pioneering the app-in-the-app model where over 10 million mini-apps or accounts are granted special access to the platform (including payments) in order to fulfill all kinds of user needs. As Connie Chan notes, “WeChat reveals what’s possible when we take a mobile-first approach to platforms. The question we should ask, I believe, is how can every business rethink its model from the ground up, so it leads and not lags behind mobile?”

At its F8 Developer conference in March, Facebook launched its Messenger platform, making it easy for 3rd party developers to build useful apps that integrate with Messenger – and reach more than 600 million people that use Messenger, thus setting the stage for a WeChatesque emergence of all kinds of services on top of messaging.

Blockchain beyond bitcoin

The Blockchain is the main innovation of bitcoin, and it uses the Blockchain algorithm to achieve distributed consensus on who owns what coins. The jury is still out when it comes to the future of bitcoin, but using the Blockchain as a software development building block may prove more important than bitcoin in itself. Even if Blockchains were invented specifically for bitcoin, the Blockchain may be applied anywhere a decentralized consensus needs to be established in the presence of malicious or untrustworthy actors. Leading figures in Silicon Valley are fascinated by the Blockchain’s potential of creating a decentralization trend at the societal, legal, governance and business levels.

Open Bazaar, for example, is a source project to create a decentralized network for peer to peer commerce online. Put simply, it’s the baby of eBay and BitTorrent. And in an age where we tend towards trusting networks more than authorities, that should be an attractive proposal for many


Schibsted’s history of entrepreneurship is reflected in many ways across the group. In Schibsted Growth, entrepreneurship is in the core of what we do. Our mission is to be the leading industrial investor and operator of digital companies in our group’s core markets. Our team of Investment Managers looks for new investment opportunities, great entrepreneurs to partner with and spend time on helping our existing portfolio companies succeed.

Our goal is to identify and invest in great companies in line with our strategic interests and with the potential of becoming new types of core businesses for our group. We have a long-term commitment and a healthy balance between internal synergies and financial gains.

We invest cash to provide companies with the financial assets they need to grow, scale and ultimately to become market leaders. We also invest time and provide our portfolio companies with access to the Schibsted ecosystem that can be leveraged in order to maximize growth in several aspects

A true partnership means mutual goals, independently run companies and becoming a part of the family on equal terms for all our portfolio companies.

We look at macro, technology and business trends and follow the development of new market opportunities closely. Based on this research we continuously look for companies that solve interesting problems for their users. Most interesting to us right now are companies working on:

  • Fintech/innovative finance/personal finance Helping users (consumers or businesses) make smarter financial decisions, adding transparency, reducing friction by innovating or disrupting existing value chains or processes.
  • Reinvention of commerce Helping users or businesses buy, sell or distribute goods in new and smarter ways. • Collaborative economy and marketplaces Enabling users to buy, sell, share or rent in new ways.
  • Digital lifestyle/digital society New types of consumer services enabled by new technology and new types of user needs.
  • Digitalization/consumerization of SMEs Helping small and medium sized enterprises with their daily challenges and needs in new and improved ways.

To determine which companies to invest in we look at the current state and future potential of the company. The areas we pay close attention to are:

  • Team
  • Market and competition
  • Technology and product
  • Business model
  • Schibsted synergies

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The spirit of management for millennials

Leadership is a key factor for success. New challenges are facing us as we now see three generations working together. Jaume Gurt, General Manager at Infojobs, believes in encouraging managers to be more humane and closer to their teams.

Right now, we are at a unique moment in history: for the first time three generations (Baby Boom, Generation X, Millennials)1 are living under the same roof at companies. The different technological and economic surroundings that they have grown up in have allowed each generation to develop a particular approach to life and to the world of work, with its own values, motivating factors and characteristics, forcing us to reinvent ourselves to contain them all and keep them happy.

The last to enter the workplace were the so-called Millennials. Unlike the previous generations, Millennials are more focused on getting the most out of the present moment, making their living doing what they love, and seeking happiness in everything that they do. They trust themselves; they are connected to the world and open to change, since they know that evolving is the key to survival. But what moves them is passion. Millennials want to control their work and their personal life. They are connected thanks to new technologies. They want to develop new ideas and projects, either on their own (entrepreneurs) or inside a company (intraentrepreneurs) and they are 100 per cent more oriented towards people than the previous generation (Generation X).

Putting people at the center

With a new profile that demands a combination of passion, working in something that they like, orientation towards people, being listened to and talking about happiness to work, what are the keys to attracting new talents? How will we be able to keep them with us once they fall in love with our company?

For me the answer is simple: we have to humanize companies, putting people at the center, promoting their humane and professional growth. We have to seek ways to make peoples’ passions into work, making companies into unique places where people come to live and enrich themselves with their co-workers. When we do something that we love, it’s no longer work, time doesn’t matter, motivation and dedication increase, and all of this leads to results that are extraordinary.

Need for flexibility

But the change has only just begun. In the next five years, Generation Z (born after 1994) will start to enter the workplace. Here the difference is a matter of degree with respect to the previous generation. Generation Z wants to work with something that they like (76 per cent compared to 50 per cent among the Millennials). There’s more entrepreneurs (61 per cent declare that they will start their own business if they don’t find the job that they want, a logical consequence of working at something that they like). Generation Z needs flexibility: not having a balance between work and life is not an option for this generation. They are less motivated by money, more interested in growing as people and professionals and even more oriented towards people (60 per cent more than the Millennials). Honesty is the most important quality that leaders need for this generation to follow them, they want to be listened to, to have their ideas taken into consideration, and to participate in decision-making.

This means four generations in the same company!

Contribute unique values

The way is clear: the organizations of the future must be more humane, because in the end this is the only thing that each and every one of these generations have in common.

As leaders we need to balance the abilities needed for developing companies spread out over various generations. We have to work so that all of them can contribute with their unique value in order to take advantage of all of their strengths. Without a doubt, new styles of leadership are necessary to lead these multidisciplinary teams and only leaders who understand them will really be able to mobilize them and to make the most of their potential. Only by encouraging managers to be more humane, closer to their teams, and more authentic than ever will we be able to perform the magic of bringing together different generations.

Are you sustainable dear?

Sustainability has become a strategic issue for most corporations. But numerous concepts of doing good can make it hard for the consumers to see the reality behind the reporting. Mari Vonen, Schibsted’s expert in CSR, believes that disruptive start-up competitors, sharing best practice – and our kids, will push development the right way.

For most individuals the debate about what is doing good and what is doing good enough remains private. For corporations this debate is public and their choices are highly scrutinized. From being the home turf of poorly dressed idealists, saving people and the planet has become the latest accessory for the fashionable and glamorous. Is this a bad thing? I think not; the more attention the issues that affect us get, the better – regardless of the selfappointed ambasador.

Endless list of labels

But why should corporations do good and how does one define it? There is an endless list of labels and focus areas that can be included under the doing-good umbrella, in addition to a multitude of reporting standards and frameworks, which adds to the confusion: It is not always evident when a corporation can claim to be sustainable or socially responsible. In layman terms1 sustainable is defined as “able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed”. For businesses this mean that satisfying the present needs should not be done at the expense of future generations.

The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or sustainability movement did not gain true attention from the business community until the late 20th century. At the turn of the century and after years with cost-cutting and outsourcing of negative externalities to low-cost countries, western corporations faced increased demands of accountability and requests to demonstrate how they balance and optimize the sometimes conflicting interests of people, profit and planet. This balancing act is not always an easy one, and has paved the way for a jungle of frameworks from the consulting industry (shared value2, true value3, blended value4, and thick value5 to name a few).

Including shareholders

This abundance of concepts fuels accusation of CSR being merely the latest management fad, a window-dressing or green washing from powerful multinational corporations to avoid state interference. An older critique is Milton Friedman’s argument that the only duty of the corporation is to maximize shareholder profits. Academics and consultants still pursue this line of thought when they try to demonstrate that investing in sustainable development maximizes shareholder value. More holistic approaches expand the group of “holders” to include the stakeholders – a group which is, alas, not as easily defined as their shareholding counterparts.

What matters most

Sustainability proponents use various means to make their cause more business-like. The introduction of the materiality concept – proclaimed to be the missing link in sustainability strategy is one such example. A corporation should define what matters the most to its key stakeholder groups, and use these insights to select focus areas to both invest in and report on. A recent Harvard Business School study6 argues that investing in material sustainability issues will increase shareholder returns.

As a rehabilitated accountant I find the development of CSR towards what used to be an accounting stronghold fascinating. The introduction of standards, audits and frameworks seek to facilitate comparison of the sustainability efforts between corporations and industries. However, all this makes it difficult to easily compare anything but the proverbial apples and oranges. We are a long way from seeing a top executive being sent to jail for fraudulent carbon emissions accounting, although the recent Volkswagen emissions scandal and its reputational and financial consequences prove that we are indeed moving in that direction.

A potential negative consequence of the good intentions behind the calls for transparency is that reporting itself becomes the main focus. It becomes so complex that one needs a specialized degree to interpret it. How then will the average Jane and Joe decide what products to buy and what shares to invest their savings in?

The very reason

We live in an age where many corporations have had to re-learn what it means to be a responsible business after public scandals and media scrutiny before arriving at a level of maturity that we expect today. A lot of start-ups on the other hand tend to integrate sustainability in their very reason for being – their purpose – and their business model and value proposition. I believe the emergence of disruptive players and technology that challenge old paradigms and established truths will be a driving force that can truly bring sustainability factors to the strategic level – even when the tough decisions are made.

If sustainability has become a strategic matter, one can assume that a competitive advantage can be derived from being good. Does this impact corporations’ willingness to cooperate to tackle industry specific issues? Here there is reason for hope: Requesting sustainable and ethical behaviour from suppliers and suppliers’ suppliers is the new norm.

Share best practice

Although the cooperation efforts have historically been directed upstream in the value chain this is changing. Forums and arenas where direct competitors share best practice and cooperate to tackle industry specific issues have emerged in industries ranging from extraction, fish farming to media to name a few. In addition great corporations acknowledge that a significant share of the environmental and social impact of their products and services may arise after the time of sale, and try to influence consumers’ behavior long after the products have left the shop. I believe the trends of increased cooperation and expansion of the sphere of influence will accelerate in the future. The possibility of nudging or shifting consumers’ behavior – in the end they are the ultimate decisions makers – towards more sustainable products and services is probably the greatest challenge and opportunity of modern day corporations.

No other choice

As for another type of corporation – the family – the future generations are taking on the role as the family’s Chief Sustainability Officers. I am hopeful that the combination of pressure from kids, technology innovations, nudging from corporations, and the non-avoidable increase in regulatory requirements can pull and push us all in the direction of a more sustainable way of life to overcome the environmental and societal challenges that we as humanity are facing. It will not be easy or pleasant, but we’re all in this together and frankly we have no other choice.

The heart and soul in the media business

Twitter and Facebook are Carina Bergfeldt's two best friends when she’s on assignment for Aftonbladet. Not only do her connections in social media help when seeking information and sources – when she visited the Syrian boarder the readers also gave proof of their true engagement by raising money to help.

Another boardroom, another brainstorming session, another long trip. Together with photographer Magnus Wennman I am about to travel along the Syrian border, through Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey It’s February 2015 and the world has not yet comprehended the extent of the refugee disaster.

“It is hard to make people care”, the woman from UNHCR says. “Maybe that’s what we should call the campaign? ‘Who cares?’… since no one does”, she continues. A few weeks later, we are there. Among the most forgotten victims of a humanitarian disaster.

Meeting the children of war

An eight-year-old boy, Shiar, has a body that looks like patchwork, put together by whatever skin was left after the mine. Five-year-old Ahmed lives in a plastic tent situated on top of a garbage dump, so close to Syria so that I can see his homeland as I talk to him. I can see it. He cannot. His blind eyes are as white as the world around them is black. Day in and day out we meet them. The children of war. On this specific day, my colleague Magnus has walked away to take a photo of some boys playing – when she catches my eye. She is seven years old and her name is Rima. She starts to follow me as I walk around the refugee camp. At first she walks behind me, smiling every time I turn around to look at her. Then she starts walking a bit faster, catching up with me. Finally, she is walking by my side.

A wooden treasure

All the time while she is walking she is holding something, her hands tightly clasped. Whatever is in there, she’s protecting it like a priceless dinosaur egg. It takes a lot of smiling and pointing from my part before she finally agrees to show me her treasure. It’s a little wooden heart, no bigger than a thumbnail, painted blue. The kind of little wooden heart you can buy for less than a dollar at the crafts store. With the interpreter’s help, Rima tells me that the little heart is the prettiest thing she’s ever seen. She asks me if I feel the same way.

As I smile and nod I feel my own heart breaking into pieces. Over this girl. Over the life she’s endured. Over the hundreds of other children we’ve met. And over the fact that UNHCR believes that nobody in Sweden cares about her. I refuse to believe that’s true. As I often do when my frustration level goes up during an assignment, I turn to Twitter and Facebook. My two best friends when I travel. I post a photo, share a brief version of her story with the thousands I interact with there. I tell the readers that I can’t wait to tell them more when I come home.

They put my heart back together

When we finally publish the story about Rima, we raise almost half a million SEK in that very first day. Four days later, Aftonbladet’s readers have given the children of Syria over two million SEK. And while doing that, they have put my heart back together, with the emails they send me. With the interactions we have on Twitter. With every share and comment they’ve given me on my Aftonbladet-Facebook page. And with the money they spent.

Important journalism

Our readers care – when we give them journalism worth caring about. When we tell them about people worth portraying. Within Schibsted we can truly impact people in their every day lives. We can give them journalism that they feel is not only worth their time – but also their money. In this case above, the aim was to raise money for the children. In other cases, I go on assignments with the purpose of writing journalism that readers want to buy from us, The two trips I’ve gone on so far for Aftonbladet Plus, to Texas and Canada, have provided a profit of more than one million SEK – after both trips were completely paid for.

Some people find it offensive to talk about money and journalism. I have never really understood that. Ever since Lars-Johan Hierta published the first edition of Aftonbladet in 1830 the purpose has been just that: to provide people with important news worth paying for. We just do it in a slightly different way today. My job is to go out into the world and bring back quality journalism that is powerful enough to make people want to open their hearts – and their wallets. As I do that, I get the most wonderful gift in return. With every new Plus account when I write about indigenous women in Canada, or every SEK when I write about girls like Rima, I learn that the UNHCR lady was dead wrong.

Our readers care.

Trend update since last year's future report

Is the IoT a hit and what about smart devices and the sharing economy? The Schibsted Products and Technology team helped us sum up some of the issues that they covered in last year’s report to see what happened.

New wave of start-ups doing one thing really well

The ongoing price war between Amazon Web services, Google and Microsoft for the dominant position in the cloud space, continues to bring prices down with new advanced offerings from the big players. At the same time the number of open APIs is growing, and this will continue to inspire 3rd party contribution on top of platforms operated by large players. There is also a new intelligent layer with tools emerging to orchestrate the large distributed computing and storage power of the cloud more efficiently and flexibly. These trends will result in a new wave of “no-stack” start-ups, i.e. companies that focus on doing only one thing really well and use other services for everything else

Always connected with smart devices

The official release of Apple Watch in 2015 marked the start of wearable commercialization. The competition to become “the next operating system” is on between Apple, Google and Microsoft. Now major high-tech players are starting to invest heavily into wearable smart devices and the numerous smart device projects on KickStarter show that the proliferation is approaching, leading to exponential growth of applications. Smart devices will keep us always connected to the Internet – “always on” – and will therefore collect much more data from our daily lives.

Data science - now for everyone

Data science is becoming an integral part of product development. And more advanced algorithms are available via off-the-shelf products. This enables companies further down in the value chain to use data science without extensive knowledge of underlying algorithms and companies can better focus on delivering good user experience. At the same time, the increasing attention to privacy and user aversion to intrusive data collection and application features, fuel the usage of anti-data analytics. On the other hand, users will require better transparency about how their data are collected and applied.

IOT – Personalization in the physical world

The emerging smart home had Internet connectivity embedded in everyday objects such as light bulbs, thermostats and control systems to facilitate control and coordination among objects. Now the concept is getting mature with commercial product releases from GE, Philips, Sony and Xiaomi. IoT will see extensive usage in both enterprise and consumer products with smart cars being the next area after smart home to get into commercialization. IoT is going to vastly increase data available real time to business and consumers, and personalization will move into the physical world. Different people might see different ads on outdoor banners – everyone having a personalized environment around them wherever they go.

The sharing economy keep disrupting

The strong economic drivers from efficiency will help the sharing economy models disrupt even bigger parts of the “ownership economy”. Uber’s 40 billion USD valuation shows that the capital markets have strong faith in this model and more traditional B2C verticals will face competition from the sharing economy model. More tools and supports have become available for building these products, and differentiation is the key to success going forward to survive. Some peer-to-peer platforms must first resolve the regulatory pushback (e.g. transportation permits, lodging tax, financial transaction oversight), and provide more end-to-end tools and services to ease individual compliance requirements.

User curation and cross-screen shopping in e-commerce

Customer expectations for quick delivery and hassle-free returns, combined with economies of scale, favor established players such as Amazon and create high barriers to enter the e-commerce area. There are two long known ways to differentiate from competition, and both still work: Focus on service – Amazon is pushing service to a new level with Prime Local Stores and Home Services. Focus on price – Alibaba and the hype of shopping directly from China proves that the low-price driver still works too. But first mover advantage helps local leaders win over Amazon in their local markets. Etsy, as the sole star in niche e-commerce, hints that the key to success is a discovery model powered by user curation, not just a niche product collection. Cross-screen shopping will soon be the new standard consumer behavior pattern, with more and more buying intention starting on mobile. And the emergence of call-to-action ad formats for e-commerce with one-click buying can change the e-commerce dynamics and challenge Amazon.

Identified web more crucial than ever

Login and identity data are more crucial than ever. Behind lies the urge to deliver the best possible personalized services and offers, and the fact that cookies are dying as traffic moves to mobile (apps) and wearables. Identity data is applied in social network and media personalization and targeted advertising. Large players are increasingly conscious to fully own it, and new industries, like telecom players, are entering the game. Login also becomes more important to advertising, as adblocking goes mainstream. On long-term a distributed identity, i.e. an identity solution that does not require one single company or institution as the central operator, built on the Blockchain infrastructure (a technology originated from bitcoin), might gain large scale traction.


Serendipity - In search of the human algorithm

The very same Internet revolution that created the global village has made bumpkins of all of us. A system of organization, curation and recommendation of information makes each of our views of the Internet more and more insular. This lack of diversity makes us lose sight of the benefits of serendipity that often leads to creativity and new ideas, says Professor R. Ravi who is examining how to design for coincidence.

Imagine the pleasure of browsing in a large musty bookstore with racks of undiscovered treasures. Now imagine that all the books were of the category that you particularly liked. What if the bookstore itself was full of just your favorite authors and styles you enjoyed? This is the intrinsic promise of the Internet and its vast collection of curated and classified information. In fact, a precursor to the conception of the Internet by Vannevar Bush in his article “As we may think” particularly calls out the ability to navigate this maze of information using hyperlinks that lead to related topics.

The sheer volume and scale of information available on the Internet has made categorization, indexing and searching the most important task, as attested by the influence and market power of the leading search engine company. In an attempt to make the information presented to a searcher more and more relevant, an important new feature was introduced by Google in 2009: search personalization.

Different results for different people

What this means is that the search results for the same keyword will be different for different people. The search results for “whaling” will be different for an investment banker and for an environmental activist, and it will also be different between environmental activists in Norway and the US. Mostly, the difference makes the results more relevant and convenient to sift through. A similar kind of personalized recommendations exist in most large repositories such as YouTube, Amazon and news websites. One of the promises of Schibsted’s SPiD system is the development of a similar personalization for logged in customers.

The reason why this starts becoming problematic is articulated fully in the book titled “Filter Bubble” by Eli Pariser. In short, personalization removes a standard frame of reference that is necessary for common dialogue among an informed populace. This is an important responsibility of journalism, media and information sites in a well-functioning democracy.

Removing the common frame of information reference puts each of us in our own filter-bubble creating echo chambers where we predominantly hear only from like-minded individuals. Even less noticed is the loss of the various opportunities to form serendipitous connections to new information which are important for cultivating a diversity of thought. Such a diverse frame of mind is an important precondition for creative invention which could be stifled by excessive personalization as well.

Myopic recommendation systems

If there are so many problems with personalization, why is it so prevalent? The answer comes from the design decisions made in the crafting of the clever software systems that allow us to navigate through information. A common metric of effectiveness in navigating systems (such as search engines, recommendation systems and relevance engines) is how much responsiveness (click-through) the automatic suggestions receive.

These automated machine learning systems optimize for presenting recommendations that have high responsiveness. While this is a very clear and actionable objective for the design of these systems, they are myopic in their scope. There is little understanding by the designers of these systems of the long-term benefits of serendipity and the eventual harms of filter bubbles. Business managers that look for data-driven ways of managing such systems all too often focus on such myopic objectives as well: just look at the metrics offered by the various online companies of their effectiveness and they are filled with number like click-through rates, unique users and engagement time (which translate to having more recommendations that users click on and stay on the site).

In this age of globalization and rapid cross-cultural mixing, it is even more imperative for a global citizen to be exposed to differing points of view. Not being exposed to diversity in opinions and opposing arguments leads to very insular societies; even purely as a business skill, this does not allow us to prepare for other reactions and counter arguments to one’s own thinking. Being in a unduly personalized information world would deny us of this important advantage.


means a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”. It was coined by the author Horace Walpole in 1754. In a letter he explained an unexpected discovery he had made by reference to a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes, he told his correspondent, were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of”. Source: Wikipedia

There are additional reasons for encouraging and planning for serendipity: Letting one’s attention wander is an important precondition for free association and discovery via synthesis of ideas from various unrelated domains. Indeed, bright flashes of creativity are often preceded by such wanderings among seemingly unrelated concepts.

To counter these negative effects of personalization, you can take some action right away. You can make a personal choice to maximize the chance of serendipitous discovery in your information seeking habits: don’t use the same search engine every time; even though you may have a set of favorite bookmarked sites for information such as news, weather, entertainment, sports and fashion, develop a habit to visit alternates from time to time. Experiment consciously and look for information that is purposefully broader when using tools so that you automatically expand the scope of the filters they impose on you.

Designing for coincidence

Technologists can contribute in this endeavor too: it is possible to design recommendation systems that try not only to optimize for relevance but add in considerations of serendipity. As an example, the basic notion of popularity of a web page is its PageRank which can be approximated by the number of other pages that link to it. An information repository can be said to be maximally democratic if all pages have the same PageRank or number of pages recommending them. However, by sheer variability in quality as well as personal preferences, these recommendations tend to point over time to a few very popular pages. This winner-take-all syndrome is the result of the selffulling nature of their growing popularity as well as the human effects of wanting to have a set of common pages to share. My own research examines various ways in which such recommendation engines can be redesigned so as to maximize some combination of relevance and democratic equality: in addition to recommending relevant and personalized items, the system also pays attention to ensuring that most pages have roughly the same popularity (measured by the number of recommendations they receive).


More democratic systems

To design a system that also encourages equality, it is important to mathematically define the amount of inequality in an existing design. This is complicated by the fact that not all pages are equal in terms of the quality of their content: thus, we may want the resulting popularity of a page in a recommendation system to be proportional to its informative quality. A second complication is the interest on the topic of the page: a high-quality page on a fringe topic could still be deemed less popular or globally relevant than a medium quality page on a topic of wide interest. This can be modeled by looking at the distribution of interest in the topic of the pages. Putting these ingredients together, one can try to come up with an ideal measure of how popular a page or item must be in the most globally democratic recommendation system.

Once we have established how to quantify equality after correcting for quality and interest, the task of designing a system that achieves these target popularities remains. Algorithms for suggesting recommendations can be calibrated for how close their results come to the ideal; new methods can be devised that deliberately take into account this final goal of increasing the calibrated equality of pages. More practical methods can combine existing notions of effectiveness of recommendations (such as the user responsiveness measured in clicks) with these new notions of equality in their objective and thus achieve a smooth transition to more democratic suggestions while maintaining a good portion of their current useful behavior.

By incorporating such aspects of equality and coincidental discovery in their objectives, technologists can help assuage the filter bubble problem. Business managers can also help by trying to quantify the value of planning for such serendipitous results in software systems they are responsible for. One possible source of this value already comes from reducing the “creepy” factor that is associated with many modern personalization systems that make the user feel that the software system knows too much about her private preferences. When Target sent a coupon book of pregnancy products to a teenager in Minneapolis, it spooked her father who realized that she was pregnant only well after seeing the book. One antidote employed by such campaigns is to mix in random coupons for non-pregnancy products that are still relevant. This solution reduces the creepiness of the personal targeting while making space to show a more diverse set of products that may result in interesting discoveries.

Establishing order for controlled chaos

There is an even broader role for social and political bodies to play in this correction: All societies that oversee information collection curation and presentation, as well as those that set technological standards must be mindful of this trade-off between the benefits and harms of personalization. Journalists, sociologists and media executives must weigh in on the debate to highlight the importance of diversity by exposing the tangible benefits from not moving towards excessive personalization and maintaining a broad and common point of reference. Let us carefully understand the implications of the bargain we are making for better organization and access to our information and ask ourselves the following question: is the convenience, speed and quick gratification offered by personalization worth the loss of a more deliberate trawl through the information that holds the possibility of seeing a golden nugget of coincidental and view-altering perspective along the way? Keep this in mind in your next session of web surfing!

Facts & Figures: Mobile

Maybe the Millenials are right - in five years we might be doing everything on our mobiles. When looking at facts and figures of mobile usage and habits we seem to be heading in that direction.

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The great mobile transformation

Mobile transformation is happening in all areas. At Leboncoin the mobile audience has overtaken the desktop usage. General Manager Antoine Jouteau gives an insight to how they’ve met the challenge.

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk... In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks,” Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook said and it is something I could imagine myself saying.

Over the last three years in France, as with most of online media in the world, users are becoming more and more addicted to browsing on their mobile, checking emails, interacting with friends and buying things. This usage has swiftly become the norm for everybody now.

While Leboncoin remains a strong leader with a well-loved brand, increasing revenue and a core cemented market share, nevertheless this phenomenon has an impact on audience and UX. As at Q1, 2015 our mobile audience had overtaken our desktop usage. This trend is here to stay and challenges our company in many ways:

  • Mobile users have demanded new and adapted features (geo-localization, social functionalities etc.)
  • KPIs on mobile have started to slightly encroach upon our revenue and audience
  • Our internal organization (product, sales) has been overly focused on desktop approaches vs. mobile.

Rather than despair, I decided to look at this situation as a huge opportunity. In response, my management team and I launched a big transformation project to become multi device, we named it “Miami device” (a little French humor and wordplay). Our vision was that our UX would be seamless across all devices in six months. In detail, we aimed to:

  • Transform our UX from desktop to multi-device
  • Encourage a modular organization
  • Evovle from a top-down decision process to a responsible and agile process with empowered middle management
  • Go from 100 per cent business decisions to 50/50 business and technical decisions

To support this new organization, we selected seven key projects organized by small teams, with a maximum of resources and decision autonomy, agile methods, as well as ambitious and pragmatic KPIs.

And the results have been very encouraging! The number of releases on IOS and Android has multiplied, feedback from users is very good (with more than four stars on the Google Store for instance), we are testing responsive pages on desktop, geo-localization is about to be launched, native advertising formats are live, and the energy from product teams is higher and higher every day. Miami Device has been well received both internally and externally. Of course it’s not perfect, but now, the multi-device vision is central to the organization.

This transformation project marks an important turn for Leboncoin, changing our way of thinking, becoming more mobile, more agile, leaning on our strong and high level technical skills. A must-have to reach our ambitious goals and improve user and customer satisfaction.

Content provider or platform player

Content might be king. But a king needs a kingdom. Where is that kingdom for content in the age of digital media? Social media sure wants to build a kingdom and wants journalism to be part of it by providing new products and services for media houses on their platforms. This poses a very sharp question for publishers: Platform player or content provider? Jan Helin, publisher at Aftonbladet, shares his thoughts on how to play the game of news without losing the king.

Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Snapchat – in the last year we’ve seen how they all have extended their content offer to their users by luring publishers on board their platforms. Make no mistake about their endgame: They are trying to reach the position of a primary news source – a key position to any digital ecosystem. Digitally underdeveloped, but well established media houses are the perfect targets.

This spring, Facebook did a groundbreaking deal with nine of the most well respected publishing brands in the western hemisphere: BBC, New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, National Geographic, NBC, The Atlantic, Bild, Buzzfeed. They have now dedicated themselves to contribute with their news and stories to Facebook’s product Instant Article. This fall Washington Post joined and at the same time declared that they will go all in – all their content is to be found on Instant Article on Facebook.

What does this really mean? Forget the current deal and business model that Facebook is now offering and stretch your thought to the more longterm important question: Is it a good idea to seek a position as a content provider in the value chain? I believe this is the most important question for publishing since the breakthrough of Internet as news distributor.

Content providers or platform players? Who will be eating whom when old value chains break in the digital ecosystem? Or to to put it more bluntly by quoting the businessman and rap artist Jay Z when he broke up from his old deal on streaming to start his own platform: “What you eat don’t make me shit.”

One app to rule them all

Facebooks strategy is basically trying to give you no reason to leave their newsfeed ever. And jostled publishers are willingly helping out, hoping to get a throw of the ladle. It’s very much a “One app to rule them all”- strategy. (Or two if we count Messenger, which we definitely should.)

From this strategy they start buy- and sell groups, they’re building a payment solution on the Messenger platform inspired by the superior digital ecosystem created by Chinese Internet Giant Tencent on WeChat. They also gear their algorithms consistently towards video to take on Youtube. This summer Facebook passed Youtube with more than four billion video views per day and are now introducing live video.

And of course, there’s Instant Article – the collaboration with major news producers that might be the game changer for publishing. Facebook’s stand is this: It’s all about a better user experience so stop linking to your own destinations, just put your content up and we take care of the rest. There is one little catch they forget to mention in that business proposal: As a publisher you will lose your relation with your user to an algorithm that you don’t see, don’t understand and don’t control. This is in essence the problem with social media for publishers. And as a consequence, you lose possibility to in depth data and learning about the user.

New sources of information

If you ask teenagers in Sweden today, what their most important sources of information are they will answer Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Youtube and Spotify, according to research by the Swedish institute Ungdomsbarometern.

You might just shake that off, thinking that this has nothing to do with real news consumption. But looking under the hoods of these players you’ll find another story, not only at Facebook.

  • Youtube, with 300 hours of videos being uploaded every minute day and night, declared earlier this spring that they now have 27,000 news channels.
  • Instagram, the platform that started out for sharing pictures from your family barbecue, have released numerous tools to create editorial content and have declared that some of their preferred partners soon will be able to link out from the platform and have access to all advertising technology from Facebook on Instagram.
  • And then there is Snapchat, the youngest of all these platforms, that attracts teenagers in a massive scale, putting up hundreds of pictures of themselves every day that disappears in ten seconds. In January, Snapchat released Discover, an impressive mobile video experience. And impressive news outlets went on board – CNN, Daily Mail, Vice and Bleecher Report.
  • Spotify, the Swedish hope among the big five, announced in June that they were going into video. They had another group of interesting news outlets on board – ABC, BBC, Vice news, NBC.

Different content fulfill different needs

So why are all these social media players all of a sudden so interested in becoming news media and collaborating with publishers to get it? Wasn’t journalism supposed to be almost dead? To find out the answer to that, we have to look at what human needs different content in general, and especially journalism, fulfills.

Facebook, Google and Instagram all started out to fulfill the user’s need for a break or distraction when you are bored. There are a few specifics that come with a position like that. The audience is huge – everyone needs a break now and then, but it’s hard to predict when. The user time spent can be low and their patience is rather low. If you don’t find anything you like right away you will most likely leave. That is the problem if you only cater for the need of distraction. Your relation with the audience is at risk of being volatile. The classic need of an update, a kind of content every newsroom is familiar with, has the same specifics to it as the need for a break. It’s a basic human need and thus a huge potential audience for those who do it good. But time spent is short and so is predictability.


More sustainable in the long run

Other parts of journalism are more interesting for a social media player. The parts that fulfill needs of looking things up and digging deep into a story that you feel passionate about. In these areas the audience is smaller, but time spent, prediction and patience is a lot higher. So a primary national news source, like Aftonbladet or VG is covering more user needs, which engage the audience at different levels than a social media outlet.

This is the reason why social media is so interested in publishing, they want to cover more needs for their users and strive for the positions of a primary news source – simply because it’s much more sustainable in the long run.

But what’s in it for the media houses? It’s quite easy to understand why Buzzfeed went on board Instant Article – their business model is all about branded content, so wherever their content is consumed is fine with them. And BBC is public service, so their content is payed for already. The question is why New York Times, The Guardian, Bild and the Atlantic chose to join. It seems a bit like a white-flag strategy.

“We have to be both”

To understand how they reason at The Guardian I asked Tanya Cordrey, Guardians chief digital officer and also a member of the board of Schibsted, the key question: Should we be content provider or platform players? ”I would say that we have to be both. First and foremost we have to keep providing excellent journalism, because without amazing content, nobody wants to come to our site and nobody wants to read our content on another platform. At The Guardian we spend a lot of time ensuring that we have a fabulous experience on our own site, but we also think it is very important for our content to be where our users are.”

Tanya explains that they work very closely with the likes of Apple and Google and Facebook, to reach a worldwide audience. ”That strategy has been very successful for us. More than one in three Facebook users who sees our content now come to our website. So we see that people are coming back to our content more often than they have previously.”

That is a success in the matter of consumption of The Guardians content, which is of course important. And hands down – The Guardian is a great brand that produces fantastic journalism. But only 20 per cent of their traffic is direct traffic – users that come directly to The Guardian and not by any link from Facebook or elsewhere. The direct pull of The Guardians journalism is low.

”I’m not necessarily saying there’s one strategy for everybody. It is true that our percentage of direct traffic has declined, but at the same time we have seen our overall footprint increase dramatically, The Guardian now has 238 million browsers every month and that’s still growing at 20–30 per cent year on year”, says Tanya.

That is understandable, but the core of what she’s saying is: ”We need to be where the users are”. Is that really the role of a publisher? I would say that’s marketing. Publishing is about being interesting enough, or irresistible enough to be able to pull the audience in. But that is a debatable conclusion. Let’s look at this from another angle.

Vox creates communities

Vox is a tech start-up company moving into publishing. They started out as a sports community on SB Nation and on the same platform they’ve built the Verge, Eater, Vox, Polygon, Racked, Recode, and Curbed. These are all different verticals of content with different brands. Vox in itself is not an ordinary news brand. They don’t break news, they don’t report news, they have taken on the interesting task of explaining the news, all from the analysis that today’s news consumer no more live in a situation of information shortage, the problem for news consumers today is information overload.

Vox product manager Trei Brundrett has another perspective on platforms: “Starting out as a technology company, our approach from the very beginning was to build a platform and to build value and service on that platform for our audience and our users”, he explains.

”One part was around the content and the way we allowed our audience to be part of the media ecosystem. The other part was thinking of the value of community. Our writers can talk to the audience, but the really interesting thing is connecting people with each other around the topics that they are passionate about and that we are covering.”

And Trei Brundrett believes that direct traffic is extremely important. “ I think it’s the primary goal. What you hope to do is to build a platform that is valuable, where you can do reporting, do storytelling that is really meaningful. And over time your audience will understand that the richest and most exclusive experience, at the end of the day, is going to be on this platform where you’re building a very rich community.”

Two different conclusions from two of the world’s most interesting publishers right now. And two completely different companies, one with a proud legacy of publishing and quality journalism, one with a true passion for publishing and an impressive degree of innovation. In a perfect world they would be married…

In the pending of that world we can make the following observations in deciding who have the best strategy – Vox or The Guardian:

A whole new story

Guardian’s 138 million unique users per month are really impressive. A comparable number for Aftonbladet would be somewhere around 20 million. But looking at page views, which is a better way of measuring engagement, it’s another game. The Guardian produces 199 million page views a week, Aftonbladets on its small market produces 231 million page views a week, and 80 per cent of that is direct traffic. This is the difference between the power of direct traffic and viral traffic.

The high reach, high frequency character of a primary news source not depending on viral traffic creates a foundation of a digital ecosystem. This is why my answer is that we need to become a platform player – to enable the ecosystem that occurs in the relation between our different operations within Schibsted.

It could actually be the beginning of a whole new story for the future of independent journalism. But that is the next episode in the thrilling series of disruption of the media. It will take place in a new territory, on a new platform. It might be a game of thrones, but content will rule it, in one way or the other. If the king is dead – long live the king!*

*The phrase “The king is dead, long live the king” is first known from 1272 when Henry III died and his son Edward I took the throne. The declaration marks the ascension of a new monarch immediately after the death of the old.

Mobile rules in advertising

Location, location, location has been the mantra of the real estate business for years and years, describing the most important factors in determining the desirability of a property. Nowadays it is also an important factor in marketing, especially in mobile marketing. Frida Kvarnström, Product Manager at Schibsted Sales and Inventory, gives us an insight in the new technologies.

With new technology comes new opportunities, not only for companies and products, but also for marketeers and advertisers. Keeping in mind the vast amount of functionality encompassed in smartphones along with the widespread usage, it is no understatement that mobiles can be regarded as an extension of ourselves. No matter if we are checking email, finding a route on a map or keeping pace on a Sunday run, we would be quite lost without them.

An indicator of who you are

One of the reasons why marketeers and advertisers also are falling in love with smartphones is the geo-technology they enable. Geo-technology is an innovation that allows advertisers to better understand and communicate to the right people based on their physical location. It sheds light on their actual, real-life behavior.

Traditionally advertisers have been trying to understand consumers based on their online behavior. How we behave online can tell a lot about people; what articles they like to read, websites they prefer to visit and products they like to buy offers insights about their affinities and intents. Geographic data provides information on your physical location. Looking at where you are, have been, or where you are going, is also a good indicator of who you are.

Today Schibsted offers its customers three different types of geographic targeting. Traditional geo-targeting is “real-time” and offers ads based on where people are located when consuming our services. Geo-fencing and beacon, are based on where you have been, to create customized segments for future retargeting.

Examples of geo-targeting might be special deals in a store nearby or realestate properties for sale in your area. Schibsted has successfully collaborated with a number of real-estate agents, where available property listings near you automatically were displayed in a fixed advertising space on Aftonbladet. This feature is seeing significant usage and can be next to addictive, both for house-hunters and the curious.

Virtual fences

Geo-fencing technology enable us to target users based on previous whereabouts. By mapping out places of interest, it is possible to create virtual fences that collect information about those who enter that area and build a specific target group. An airline customer wanted to reach frequent flyers – we drew a fence around Arlanda airport and segmented recurring visitors. This enabled the customer to communicate through traditional mobile banners at Aftonbladet to their audience of interest.

Beacon technology enables us to create even more niched segments than geofencing. By placing a beacon transmitter in a customer’s brick-and-mortar store, visitors can be collected when passing by the transmitter. The beacon technology is suitable for smaller areas, is based on Bluetooth technology and requires opt-in action from the user in a mobile app.

In collaboration with Aftonbladet, a food truck used a beacon to track visitors while handing out samples. This very niche segment of visitors was later targeted with a coupon banner at Aftonbladet that encouraged them to try the food sample again.

Combined behaviors

Looking ahead, the potential of additional uses of geo-technology have yet to be explored. The next step is to identify the users across devices and combine offline and online behavioral data, to create even better targeting opportunities. This technology will also improve the quality of Schibsted’s products, as we will learn more about where our visitors are and what they are doing, while consuming our services.

The art of Simplicity

Today, digital technology enables us to deliver a huge amount of functionalities to all users. However, we are proven time after time that the basic principle of simplicity is very relevant, probably more than ever. Borja de Muller emphasizes the need to find the “just enough” point when exploring what we should offer the users.

As the celebrated American graphic designer Milton Glaser put it a long time ago: “Less isn’t more; just enough is more”. This is what differentiates experiences. This is what differentiates effective communication and marketing. This is what differentiates resource planning. And so it goes in many other dimensions.

Often we hear the importance of “seamless experiences”, “personalization”, “user-centricity”, “new features or functionalities providing a competitive edge”. This is all very relevant, but it is pointless if it is not assessed in the context of simplicity.

Clear of clutter

Typically, adding functionality adds complexity. A careful cost-benefit assessment should be carried out in the form of user tests before getting carried away by the novelty of such functionality. An example of how this is performed (and one that we probably encounter daily) is Google’s homepage. Despite of the complexity behind its search algorithm, and despite the many functionalities that Google provides through its ever-growing product portfolio, its main insignia and gate-away (its homepage) is still clear of any clutter: it is simple. It has “just enough”, and of course, it is very relevant for users. Achieving such simplicity in the delivery of a service is not simple.

There are many examples of the importance of simplicity in design. When looking at its impact vis-à-vis data you always need to have the end user in mind.

At the end of the day, data must be a core enabler to find the balance of the “just enough” in every single touch point we have with the user. Showing a person everything he or she may need or want is not easy to do (specially in a limited space and limited time), and for sure impossible for the user to assimilate.

Knowledge is key

However, if we know more about that user, we know about why he or she is currently using our systems, we have much better chances to be effective on that communication. We have to get that “just enough” point. And companies have to understand that data is the great enabler for that. Achieving such effective engagement with our user will in turn open up many other possibilities.

Data is often regarded as an enabler to add more and better functionality to our products, or display ever more information. However, I believe that the exact opposite view is much more effective.

Data should be leverage to enhance simplicity. Each one of us is best placed to think through how that applies to their business or occupation. Let me give you a couple examples in classifieds:

  • Why should I select a category for an item I am trying to sell? Data and depp learning architectures allow for accurate picture recognition.
  • Why should I search for the relevant content in the platform? Data allows ever-improving accuracy in recommendation algorithms.

Of course, these are only two examples that allow huge simplifications in the way we deliver our service. These technologies, enabled by large processing of data, allow for many other use cases from computer vision to medical diagnosis. And, at the end of the day, it allows to make the delivery of many services simpler. The ones who understand this best and are able to implement it effectively into their areas will be the ones who will succeed and gain the user. In a digital world, this is the final game.

Designing the UX way

Hiding complexity or at the very least making what is complex more understandable is a cornerstone of good User Experience (UX). Lidia Oshlyansky, Head of User Experience, Schibsted Products and Technology, shares the striving for achieving simplicity.

The links between perceived usability, beauty and simplicity have been made by researchers for many years now. Before user experience became a profession and human-computer interaction became a field of study, other areas, such as psychology, were already looking at how object placement, object relationships and similarity could affect our perceptions. For example, Gestalt principles speak of how we try to simplify complexity by using cues such as proximity, continuity, similarity, closure, figure and ground.

Beyond psychology we have learned and borrowed from many other disciplines, as well as growing a field of study and practice, to help us create user experiences that are simple, beautiful, engaging, usable, useful and maybe even a little fun.

Researching and testing

That’s all well and good you say, but how do you actually do it? It’s not magic; by researching and testing our ideas early and often and from there iterating our designs we aim to hit the sweet spot of user experience for our audience.

To give a concrete example, we’ve been developing a reporting tool for our Ad Operations teams. They have current tools in place. These tools are fairly difficult to master, often don’t work as well as we’d like (it can take hours to produce a single report) and are often more complex than they need to be for their most common use.

We set out to try to address this issue for our end users. We first went to see how their existing tools worked and what types of reports were most often produced. From this research we developed some ideas for a minimum viable product – one that would address the most common use of the reporting tool.


We quickly prototyped this tool and took it back to the users to test. We listened to their feedback and requests. We quickly fixed anything we could. Requested features that would take longer to develop were added to our to do lists for future releases or iterations of the tool.

We gave the tool to users so that they could use it in their day to day work while we continued to add features and changes from our to do list.

Once we had made enough changes to make the tool even better we went back to the users again to test and see how the newest additions to the reporting tool were working for them. We again gathered their feedback and requests so we could make any quick changes or needed fixes and again create a new to do list for anything that would require more time to address.

A product suited for purpose

In this way we’re able to create a product that is simple and right for the users. They provide us the much needed input on their needs, goals and the problems they would like to have us solve. They also help us understand how they will use our products in their day to day work. We in turn can design and engineer for those needs. What happens as an end result is a product that is suited for purpose, simple to use and even increases productivity (no more waiting an hour for a report).

External users

The process described is used whether you design for an internal or external users. With external users things like our branding become more paramount and the styling, visual design and of course communication style must be closely aligned across the product. Of course, internal tools should be wonderful to use, but external tools may depend on their user experience being truly wonderful to be commercially successful. In the case of designing for external users things like engagement and the user’s emotional response to the product become even more critical.