A world divided

A world divided

A world divided

A world divided

In many ways, journalism is at a peak: media reaches more digital readers, viewers, and listeners than ever before, and digital revenues have reached record levels. Still, Ola Stenberg, Product Director at VG, is concerned. The problem: the digital-native generations expect completely different things from media.

Why are the new needs from younger genera­tions a problem? Be­cause what we, as a media company, did in the last decades will not work in the years to come. Our success with creating habits for our users will not continue without us rethinking pretty much everything.

Our average user, male 50, was born in the 70s. Those users remember the walk from home to the local store to pick up the newspaper from the stand in the morning. They remember linear television, the rise of cable TV and that we actually rented a video cassette player for 24 hours at the rental store. They remember when Steve Jobs told the world not only about a smart phone where the keyboard was replaced with a touch screen, but that it was a phone with a music player! And a breakthrough internet communications device! We were all amazed.

A world divided

Today, it is a story that young people do not even understand. A music player?

Unknown history

What’s good enough for him (50) is not even close to good enough for her (20). For him everything just became better when the internet, desktop and smartphones evolved. To her, born and raised in a digital world, almost everything he considers radical innovation is unknown history.

“Why are you saying flat screen, dad?” or “why are you talking about buying a new smart TV?”. Have you ever gotten that question from your kids? I get them. They think my language is strange. I understand why. For me that very flat TV is still amazing because I remember the big ones. But my kids have never seen anything else, and they are not particularly impressed by the smartness of remote controls or a screen you can’t even touch or talk to.

I also struggle to get my son to pick up the phone when I call. Why not send a text or voice message on snap? Or you could ask a 20-year-old today how many numbers they have saved in their contact list.

These are our new users.

They are Gen Z, gen Alpha or the TikTok-generation. Just consider Tik­Tok and their position for a second: 1.2 billion active monthly users spend an average of 52 minutes per day in the app. They are crushing other social media platforms on engagement rate, and I don’t even want to think about TikTok engagement metrics vs traditional media.

Will we continue to grow?

While this is enfolding, direct traffic on VG is still great. We still hold the position as the number one news source in Norway. We’ve pretty much been growing on all metrics since we went online in 1995. The big question: will this continue?

We were suc­cess­ful in shifting our users’ habits from physical newspapers to news sites, but what lies ahead of us might be an entirely different story. User habits are changing dramatically and faster than ever before. We will have to go the extra mile to keep up this time.

I believe we are in our biggest shift so far. A shift in users. And mindset.

The prospect of facing a total rethink keeps me up at night. Will we be fine with adjusting and iterating over time? I don’t have the answer yet, other than the fact that we invest heavily in understanding our new users.

First, we need to understand the fact that the world ahead is divided.

They live their lives online

When we (old people) talk about entering a web site or the internet, our new users live their lives online. It’s a natural part of their life, their habits. It’s basically a cornerstone in their social life, in the way they celebrate birthdays, shop, learn, experience, entertain or being entertained – how they connect with the world.

And the ones shaping their habits are not news sites like VG or others. That is done by gaming platforms, chats everywhere and social platforms like TikTok. A video and visually driven experience where short, snappy content – served to you by addictive algorithms – all connected by who you follow and what your friends like and share. That is not what the media serves today. You can argue that journalism is something different. Our ethical standards are different, and we can’t be fully personalised.

At the same time, we know through years of user research that what our competitors and especially social media platforms manage to do well – we fail at. We also know by research that the young users will find us when the news story is big enough. But what about all the other days? Again, we struggle with daily habits and loyalty. So we need to step up our game.

Understanding  a new social life

To turn headaches into success we must understand our new users and their digital lives. TikTok is one thing but I hear parents talk about hours of gaming or too much screen time being a problem. It might be for some but we also need to understand that gaming, watching TikTok for an hour or chatting with friends is more than playing a game or wasting time on a screen. It’s a totally normal social life for young people.

My point is this: the new era is about users with a different mindset and ways of living their lives – which all feel unnatural for a 40-year-old like me. I still don’t talk to my phone, while my kids try to talk to every device there is. They give me that strange look if I ask stupid questions of why they want to spend 100 dollars on a pair of virtual sneakers. Yes, Nike recently bought a company making virtual shoes and it’s already a multi-million-dollar industry.

We need to hire them

We need to listen to this generation. They will probably not win an A/B test on our site today but they will for sure be the ones to serve in the future. And our big challenge is to serve them. Otherwise, we should expect to slowly drive ourselves out of business.

One way to understand the job to be done, is to continue our investment in user research and listening to the users we have, and those we don’t have. But I believe there is one more thing we have to do: Hire them.

If you do that, you get the mindset in-house. We need to get the people who can dream it, and then build it, too. Young people today are more skilled than ever. They grew up with the internet and a never-ending opportunity of learning by themselves – online.

A world divided

And then, hiring is one thing – to lead is another. Some years back I could go into most rooms and bring value to the table. Now, I try to lead with this in mind: everyone in the team is there because they are better than me. And you must let the quieter voices come through. The youngest journalist or the apprentice have mindsets and skills that are crucial for your future success. But because they are fresh hires, they may not know it. So, tell them, every day and keep the door open to the management and board room and let them speak their minds.

She (20) is our key to the future.

Author Ola Stenberg

Ola Stenberg
Product Director, VG
Years in Schibsted: 18

Schibsted projects that bridge the gap

Although there is a generation gap in news consumption there are many initiatives to reach young people at Schibsted’s newspapers today. Here are a few successful examples – and don’t miss the story about IN/LAB on the next page.

A world divided

Nathalie Mark is Future Editor at Aftonbladet. She works with the editorial teams on how to attract young audiences with news stories, helps developing formats for social media platforms and she is always on the lookout for future news media- and tech trends. Today Aftonbladet has a thriving TikTok account with over 100,000 subscribers and four different Snap Shows with several 100,000 unique viewers each week – starting from zero when Nathalie started in January 2022.

A world divided

VG has a team called Z, that is the frontrunner for “young content” – they also handle the social media production, distribution and strategies. In 2016 VG partnered with Snapchat and started to build channels for news and entertainment on their Discover-feed. This has become a huge success with 900,000 users subscribing for VG content. The content produced for Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram are also used on VG.no and experiences from the social platforms are shared with the newsroom

A world divided

To explain news to kids, both Aftenposten and Svenska Dagbladet have newspapers for children – Aftenposten Junior and SvD Junior. Aftenposten also has a school project where teachers can use the digital content in the classrooms. This content was also the starting point to make news from Aftenposten accessible to all – through a synthetic voice.

Meet our people I care for our contribution to society

Meet our people: "I care for our contribution to society.”

Meet our people I care for our contribution to society

"I care for our contribution to society"

“Talent is the foundation of success, so our people are, without a doubt, our most important asset,” says Grethe Malkmus, Schibsted’s new Head of People and Communication.

Grethe joined the company six years ago and has held a number of roles over the years, including Director of People at VG and in News Media. This has given her insight into Schibsted’s different brands and diverse cultures, as well as an understanding of the opportunities and challenges in an evolving employment landscape.

“It’s never been more important, or more challenging, to attract, retain and develop the talented employees we need in order to fulfil our purpose of empowering people and serving society.”

Economic uncertainty, increasing global competition and changing attitudes to work means that there is a need to focus on multiple fronts, like identifying the right talents and making sure to give them what they need, she explains.

“It’s a tough task, no doubt, but I can’t think of a better-placed organisation in our markets to address this.”
She mentions the learning opportunities within an inclusive workplace and career opportunities across the businesses as great options to attract and retain talents.

“In my heart, I truly care for the success of Schibsted and our contribution to society. Every time I pop into the daily all-hands in our media houses and experience the enthusiastic debate around journalism, I’m always reminded of our purpose. I am really proud that what we do in our team has an impact on that larger purpose.”

Grethe Malkmus, EVP, Chief People and Communication Office

Author Monika Gustavsson och Karin LIander

Monika Gustavsson and Karin Liander

They make the office feel like home

In Stockholm, around 20 Schibsted companies have their offices in the same building. The different spaces are designed with each company’s need and identity in mind – much thanks to Monika Gustavsson and Karin Nyberg Liander.

Monika and Karin belong to the facility team and take care of all surfaces to make sure everyone has the space and furniture they need.

“When we started, there were desks in straight rows, and people were disturbed without understanding why. Now we are looking into each company’s needs and then we are trying to create a nice, homely feeling,” Karin explains.

And many changes have been made lately, not least because people are working from home and don’t have fixed places at the office. New kinds of spaces are needed and the leading word is an “activity-based office”.

“Minor details matter and we try not to skip those little extra things, even when the budget is tight,” says Monika.

Another change is that now most people in the building know who is responsible for the work environment. Karin and Monika move around and talk to people.

“The best thing is that our job varies a lot,” says Monika.

“And that we get to be creative and make people feel good while being here,” Karin adds.

Monika Gustavsson, Karin Liander, Workspace Managers, Stockholm
Years in Schibsted: 5

Author Agnieszka Lasyk

Agnieszka Lasyk

Trust and safety make teams happy

Agnieszka Lasyk is into happy teams. She’s working as a director of engineering, based in Schibsted’s office in Krakow, Poland, and she is certain that a safe working environment is crucial for success at work.

“I really want to be part of creating the best environment possible to give employees the best opportunities to excel.”

Her interest is rooted in her former studies. She has a degree in sociology, and as a manager in Schibsted, she drew on her learnings and experiences on building happy teams in order to improve performance, on her own initiative. And she started off by spreading the message with a presentation to tech leaders, about three years ago.

“At first, I was a bit reluctant, thinking that this is common knowledge. But then I was asked to hold presentations in different teams and forums, so apparently, it’s not that obvious.”

Her main message is that happy teams perform better – and that trust and psychological safety are the foundations for building them. And that managers and leaders need to act as role models.

“Managers should make their whole team understand that they can come as they are and work to foster an inclusive and transparent culture.”

Agnieszka Lasyk, Director of Engineering, Schibsted Marketing Services
Years in Schibsted: 9

Influencers might need new skills to survive

Influencers might need new skills to survive

Influencers might need new skills to survive

Influencers might need new skills to survive

Social media is fundamentally changing. Algorithms focusing on our interests will make us more passive, and influencers are in for a challenge.

We have now entered the third era of social media algorithms. This new development has major implications for some of the tech world’s leading players and for our personal well-being, and is one of the trends that will affect us most in the coming years.

Time is money

The first era of algorithms was simple by today’s standards. We as users decided for ourselves what interested us and which accounts we would follow. Then posts from those accounts began appearing in our feeds in chronological order.

During the second era they were shuffled up so that posts from accounts we already followed were mixed with posts our friends commented on and with accounts that resembled the ones we already followed.

Now we have entered the third era, where we don’t even need to tell social media what we’re interested in. It doesn’t matter which accounts we follow. Recommendation algorithms are now becoming so accurate that they always give us what we want without us having to actively tell them what that is.

Just like before, it’s all about consuming as much user time as possible. Time is money or, to put it more precisely, the more companies can hold our attention, the more advertising they can sell. They earn more money – and therefore more value – for their shareholders.

Influencers might need new skills to survive

This era also goes to show that we ourselves don’t know what we want. The companies can figure that out for themselves and then get us to spend our valuable time on them.

The principle isn’t new, but the amount of money being invested in developing it is. And it’s TikTok that’s leading the way. Its parent company Bytedance spent SEK 163 billion on research and development in 2021 alone. Developing a market-leading algorithm is expensive.

Algorithm development is also transforming how we use social media. Previously, users would interact with friends and acquaintances and share their everyday life with them through photos and status updates. The apps served as extensions of our social lives.

Now the focus has been shifted to entertainment. Here, too, TikTok is the one driving the change and is sitting in the driver’s seat. On its platform, it’s not who you follow that determines what content you view, but rather the type of content you like. The social function has been peeled away. And its competitors are following suit.

Video is the new gold

For the social media giants, video is the new gold. Instagram and Facebook are fighting to get Reels, their TikTok clone, to take off. YouTube is investing heavily in the very similar Shorts format. It’s about reversing a trend where, for example, Instagram and Facebook owner Meta is seeing its first ever decline in user growth and revenues.

This trend is also redrawing the map for influencers who enjoyed huge success and earned large amounts of money on those platforms. For many years now they could sit back and enjoy growing audiences and engagement, which guarantees collaborating advertisers a certain amount of exposure. But what happens when followers cease to be so important?

The fact that TikTok’s algorithm is based on interest rather than audience size means that anyone can go viral. This summer Instagram tried to roll out similar changes in its algorithm but faced fierce pushback from the most established influencers, from Kim Kardashian to Swedish Rebecca Stella. In SvD, one influencer described the new reality on the platform as “Russian roulette”.

Instagram had to admit they were wrong and withdrew it, but it’s probably only a matter of time before the new algorithm returns. Instagram simply can’t afford not to keep up with users’ changing behaviour, and has declared Reels as the future for the platform.

Influencers need to start over

For many of the leading influencers around the world, this means they will have to start over, learning new tricks and understanding user behaviour on a new platform. Those who built careers on generating engagement by posting nice pictures will suddenly have to learn how to make videos and create a different type of content. Not everyone will survive the transition,

And perhaps that’s the natural process of succession; after all, it’s normal in most industries for new skills to emerge and for old ones to die out, and for companies to change their strategies.

So how are the platforms’ new, advanced recommendation algorithms affecting us users? We’re becoming less active and more passive. We’re using the platforms less and less for keeping in touch with friends and acquaintances. And instead we passively scroll through infinite feeds over which we have no control. One aspect of it is how it makes us feel.

Research on psychological well-being and social media use is still in its infancy, and it’s very difficult to say anything about cause and effect, but there are some indications – and they’re pointing in the same direction. A study conducted in the United States found that individuals who passively consume social media content run a 33% higher risk of developing symptoms of depression, while the same risk for active users is 15%. A study conducted in Iceland on more than 10,000 adolescents found that passive consumption correlated negatively with anxiety and symptoms of depression. The same correlation was not found in active users, even after controlling for other factors.

As already mentioned, the relationship between cause and effect is not easy to establish, but we can be pretty certain that development of the algorithms has more to do with enriching the social media giants’ shareholders than it has with making life better for us users.

Author Sophia Sinclair

Sophia Sinclair
Tech Reporter SvD Näringsliv
Years in Schibsted: 4

Author Henning Eklund

Henning Eklund
Tech Reporter SvD Näringsliv
Years in Schibsted: 2

IN/LAB is using experiments to reach news outsiders

IN/LAB is using experiments to reach news outsiders

IN/LAB is using experiments to reach news outsiders
IN/LAB, a new initiative within Tinius Trust, running a workshop about future news experiences with summer workers from the local media house Fanzingo.

IN/LAB is using experiments to reach news outsiders

For a long time, the Scandinavian countries have been ahead of the game when it comes to freedom of speech and of the press. But today, large groups in society don’t consume fact-based journalism. To reach these “news outsiders” Schibsted and Tinius Trust established IN/LAB.

According to the 2022 edition of the Digital News Report (DNR) by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 38% of global media consumers avoid the news (up from 29% in 2019). In Sweden and Norway, these numbers are 32% and 28%, respectively.

Independent news journalism plays a crucial role in serving people with fact-based information about the world around them. But if that journalism isn’t getting through to diverse groups in society, we have a big problem.

Future opportunities

To help Schibsted reach groups in society where the current consumption of independent news journalism is low, Schibsted and the Tinius Trust (Schibsted’s majority owner) established a joint venture in 2022: IN/LAB.

IN/LAB is here to prototype possible new(s) futures. To do that, we believe that we must dare to engage with truly divergent perspectives – not to legitimise, but to understand.

We use design thinking to turn insights about perceived pain points into future opportunities. In this, we are optimistic about emerging technologies and the opportunities they present for journalism. However, using it is not an end in itself. Our goal is to establish a trustful and constructive dialogue with groups we do not reach today and genuinely listen to their perspectives.

We work with specific target groups of news outsiders for various experiments. These groups vary in scope and size, based on factors such as age and gender, level of education and socio-economic status typically going into our scoping process.

Young people in the outskirts

Our first target group has been young people living in the multicultural outer city areas of Stockholm. These are areas characterised by, among other things, lower-than-average socio-economic status and residents with lower degrees of trust in society’s institutions compared to the national average.

Trust in Swedish media has been reported as increasing in the areas – but not among younger residents, who make up approximately 90,000 (under the age of 25) of the more than 250,000 people living there. We believe that this often expressed discontent and distrust in the media can have major negative consequences for the democratic and societal participation among this large group of young people.

We decided to work with 15- to 25-year-olds in the outer city areas who express a critical attitude towards news media. What are their perspectives on news journalism? What would we need to do differently to attract them as future consumers?

We have conducted in-depth interviews at local cafés, playgrounds and park benches and run creative workshops – always encouraging participants engage and express themselves in ways that are comfortable and relevant for them.

Three pain points

Through our research, we have identified three pain points in our target group’s current perspectives on news journalism:

They think that the news media shares unfair and inaccurate depictions of their residential areas and topics of importance to them.

They argue that there are too few perspectives, and too much opinion, in current news journalism. They want to make up their own minds based on facts – and not be fed other people’s opinions.

They have an instrumental approach to news but find the tools to be broken. If they can’t trust nor use what’s in the news, why consume it?

While in some ways a niche target group, we believe their expressed attitudes are critical to consider also from a broader Gen Z-perspective.

The bigger picture

Fundamentally, IN/LAB is concerned with the role that independent journalism plays in a liberal democracy. Because, as phrased by Hannah Arendt: “what makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed”.

We want to turn insights about the realities of current news outsiders into future opportunities for Schibsted, our brands, and our users. To do that, we believe that empathy is our most important skill.

Author Belenn Rebecka Bekele

Belenn Rebecka Bekele
Community Researcher, IN/LAB
Years in Schibsted: 0.5

Author Agnes Stenbom

Agnes Stenbom
Head of IN/LAB
Years in Schibsted: 4.5

No human left behind

No human left behind

No human left behind

No human left behind

For one year, Sumeet Singh Patpatia has been Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at Schibsted. After collecting data one thing is clear – there is a lot of unleashed potential that could spur on innovation.

In a rapidly accelerating world, where markets, trends, customer behaviours and needs constantly evolve, companies must evolve as well. In addition to this, we face challenges of enormous complexity and scale – the climate crisis, energy costs, an uncertain macro-economic outlook and a war in Europe. Never has the need for different perspectives and inclusion been more urgent. With a greater range of diversity in the room comes a wider range of perspectives, ways of thinking, understanding behaviours – and greater responsibility.

No human left behind

Inclusion is about the ability to unleash the potential of all kinds of people, to make everyone thrive, feel seen and translate that to better products and services. And to have the right team in place to spot the relevant, changing needs. By broadening the range of diversity in our teams, the possibility to innovate and innovate even better increases.

Understanding how we can improve

That’s why we, for a year now, have been working on a plan to make Schibsted an even more diverse and inclusive place to work, a place where everyone should have a sense of belonging. We already do a lot, and in many ways, we are a diverse and meaningful home for more than 6,000 brave and adventurous employees. But it has also been crucial to really understand how we can improve. During the last year, we have been traveling around and meeting employees in every corner of the company to do some extensive data analysis.

We have conducted more than 100 internal interviews, three deep studies in three different organisations, and integrated the DIB-aspects in our internal survey. Our findings show that the majority of our employees find that we have an inclusive culture. But when 89% say we have a culture that is free from bullying, harassment and discrimination, you also need to consider that some still disagree.

And when in another survey, 9% find the environment evasive and passive and 3% say it’s segregating, you also need to acknowledge that people belonging to a majority feel more included than people belonging to minority groups.

Hidden diversity expertise

It’s sometimes easy to be satisfied with big numbers – but in order to really find out what is needed, you have to dig deeper. For instance, we also found out that there is a lot of hidden diversity expertise that is rarely or never taken into account. Such as people who have lived abroad, or perhaps people who are married to someone with a different culture experience.

No doubt, people do see the need for diversity and inclusion, and its connection to improved product development – and that curiosity is a key behaviour to support this. Our next step is to go from data to action, and to translate those perspectives into tangible value. We have also established local DIB groups in Finn, Blocket, Lendo, Aftenposten and our data and tech department already, and more will come.

And we have a DIB strategy in place – these are some of the actions we are focusing on now:

  • Developing inclusive employee life cycle processes, starting off with creating an inclusive recruitment process playbook.
  • Introduce programs and trainings to develop culture and competence within DIB.
  • Implement a DIB maturity index – to really understand our state much deeper.
  • Get insights about and understand customers that we don’t reach today.

But most important is to build competence throughout the organisation. In the end the responsibility to include all rests on both colleagues and leaders.
Because as humans, we exclude people consciously and unconsciously all the time. And being excluded is painful. It actually impacts our brain in the same manner as physical pain. Whether we weren´t selected in the football team as kids, never invited to the prom, or we find out that our friends, who we thought were close, got married and didn’t invite us. Whatever it is doesn’t matter – it all hurts.

When we feel excluded we limit ourselves

People around us may go to work and feel excluded every day. Having a feeling that they need to fit in to a specific culture, where you must park your unique perspectives in order to thrive. Perhaps not daring to share ideas in the product development room, lifting perspectives in the team meeting or always feeling misunderstood, because the context you are in doesn’t understand your angle.

We know that when we feel excluded, we limit ourselves. We might be afraid of opening up or sharing our perspectives or ideas. So, creating a culture in which everyone dares to share boils down to the responsibility of the leader and the colleagues. For colleagues, it is about our ability to invite and include perspectives (competence) of our colleagues with different experiences when we write or develop products. For leaders, it is about their ability to understand the full potential of everyone and making sure those perspectives are visible and that you as a leader listen to them.

Our vision in Schibsted is to develop the best workplace, a place where you can be you. And that is our main tool to empower all kinds of people in their daily lives. To make that happen, we need to keep on investigating, learning and following a clear plan.

Author Sumeet Singh Patpatia

Sumeet Singh Patpatia
Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging
Years in Schibsted: 1

Algorithms can encourage empathy and connections”

“Algorithms can encourage empathy and connections”

Algorithms can encourage empathy and connections”
Victor Galaz is deputy director and associate professor at Stockholm Resilience Center, and a writer for Svenska Dagbladet.

“Algorithms can encourage empathy and connections”

Could AI make us care about the climate? Or will it just bring a flood of auto-generated disinformation? It’s Victor Galaz’s job to find out.

Next year, Routledge will publish Victor Galaz’s book Dark Machines, an essay on the impact of artificial intelligence in a future of climate change. As deputy director and associate professor at Stockholm Resilience Center (and a writer for Svenska Dagbladet), he spends a lot of time pondering resilience and sustainability. Over Zoom, from his home in Stockholm, he explains what makes for a resilient society.

“It’s a society with the capacity to predict, adapt to and recover from shocks. In that process, it also innovates and renews itself. For instance, the war in Ukraine and the pandemic pose huge challenges for global food systems, energy systems and so on. However, we shouldn’t strive to get back to normal from this point, because we need to change these things anyway. Our societies need to evolve.”

How resilient is our society?

“Different societies have different levels of resilience. A country with weak public institutions and little money is always more vulnerable than a country like Sweden. However, one difference between the world today and the world twenty years ago is that we’re much more global and interlinked. A disturbance in one part of the world rapidly spreads to other parts.”

Do we have the resilience needed for future challenges?

“We can never take that for granted. Climate change and loss of biological diversity pose massive challenges. Over time, our drive to optimise and maximise has created huge values for a lot of people. But we have never lived in a time of climate change like this one, and we simply don’t know yet if we can handle it.”

In his upcoming book, Victor Galaz explores how AI is cause for both hope and concern among climate scientists. He talks of a “silent tsunami” of AI seeping into
all aspects of our society – more or less unnoticed.

Is AI a threat in itself or is it a matter of who controls it?

“Technologies are not neutral. Some AI systems are explicitly designed to harm us, for instance through surveillance and discrimination of ethnic minorities. That said, it is a matter of control and of fair distribution of the enormous gains these new technologies bring.”

Regulating new technologies is a notoriously tough task. As the British academic and writer David Collingridge once pointed out: “When change is easy, the need for it cannot be foreseen; when the need for change is apparent, change has become expensive, difficult and time consuming.”

The challenge, then, is foreseeing the future. If we fail, AI will bring unintended and unwanted consequences, according to Victor Galaz.

”There are some direct climate effects of AI, such as energy costs, social costs and environmental impacts. We are coming to terms with these. But then there are indirect, long-term effects that are even bigger, and much harder to manage. Take digitalisation of agriculture, for instance. As we use technologies to optimise and maximise food production, we get enormous monocultures, as these are the most efficient, and we see the end of small-scale farming, loss of local job opportunities and more vulnerable ecosystems. And these are just some examples. Another is mass-scale climate disinformation through social media bots.”

If we do solve the problem of control, how can AI contribute to a resilient society?

“In two ways. Firstly, it will give us a better understanding of how our planet is changing, and how dependent we are on it. Secondly, it could help expand our empathy with other people and even with other species. Just as algorithms can exploit negative emotions to drive engagement in social media, they can encourage empathy and connection.”

“These and other emotions are important to bring about change. Just look at the mass appeal of Greta Thunberg. She is sad. She is disappointed. She is angry. These emotions make people care.”

Sam Sundberg

Sam Sundberg
Freelance writer, Svenska Dagbladet

A curious mindset makes us thrive in dark times

A curious mindset makes us thrive in dark times

A curious mindset makes us thrive in dark times

A curious mindset makes us thrive in dark times

Schibsted has a history of thriving during periods of disruption and when times are tough. Andrew Kvålseth, Chief Investment Officer, believes that the secret behind this success is an entrepreneurial culture that takes calculated bets and is willing to disrupt itself.

In California there are forests with tens of thousands of mighty redwood trees that have stood there for hundreds – and sometimes thousands – of years.

Slightly less common, but even mightier, are the sequoia trees. Some of them have been standing proud for more than 3,000 years in the Sierra mountains. The world’s most famous tech VC firm, Sequoia Capital, had a pretty good reason for picking their name from the famous tree. Sequoia has been an early investor in companies including Yahoo!, Google, YouTube, LinkedIn and WhatsApp, and an investment from them is considered an honour that often triggers a cascade of other investors wanting to join the investor ranks.

So, how do you live for thousands of years?

Well, the trick is almost awkwardly obvious. You don’t die. If you never die, you live forever.

Foundation for transformation

And the redwoods and the sequoias have a trick up their sleeve: A tannin in their bark that is flame retardant. That is, some weird scientific potion that helps them survive the forest fires that typically plague any large forest every 20–50 years or so. Besides this amazing chemical compound, their bark can be up to 12 centimetres thick. They’re like the tanks of the forest, almost impossible to kill.

So let’s bring this wooden metaphor home to Schibsted and the tech scene in the Nordics. Schibsted is a company with a number of valuable assets (including Aftenposten in Norway and Aftonbladet in Sweden) that were born in the 1800s, after the printing press but before the car was invented, and roughly 100 years before the humble transistors paved the way for the digital revolution. These companies survived the great depression in the 1930s and dozens of recessions in their 100+ year lives.

In late 1990s and early 2000s, these companies formed the foundation of a massive digital transformation taking place inside of Schibsted: The creation of our early, online marketplace business and a culture around innovation where we started partnering with some of the best entrepreneurs in the Nordics, both inside and outside of our company.

And it all could have ended there. The dotcom crash, our own version of a forest fire in 2002–2003, was so severe that some pundits back then actually thought that the Internet itself would contract and potentially disappear. But at the same time, consumers kept on moving online, kept on adapting to digital news consumption patterns, and they bought and sold their stuff online at a pace that led to continuous, massive changes in consumer behaviour.

Seeing permanent changes

Schibsted understood this. The mega trends and changes in consumer sentiment are for real and permanent. Revenues will come back. So will profits.
So, we doubled down on our marketplace business and in the next year, we began replicating our marketplace platforms globally.

The Lehman crash of 2008 was another massive forest fire in our industry. Ad revenues plummeted and many of the tech VCs that survived the dotcom crash were wiped out.
What did Schibsted do?

We invested in and built some of the most attractively valued and best-run tech assets in the Nordics and beyond, including Lendo, Kundkraft (sold to Tibber) and Leboncoin, to name a few. These and other organic and inorganic investments made during that time have created enormous value.
And now we’re here again. There are dark clouds over the global economy and perhaps even darker for us in Europe as we face compounded humanitarian crises with unstable energy markets and rising inflation.

But Schibsted sees opportunity during these times. And I think we might have found our secret formula for survival: A curious mindset that explores opportunities when few others see any. An entrepreneurial culture where we choose to take carefully calculated bets on those opportunities. And a culture of coming together to save money in different parts of our business to fund the new opportunities we see.

Based on our learnings, these are our five key strategies, when investing during hard times:

1. Think long-term – for real!

Booms and busts come and go but mega trends in consumer behaviour sometimes stretch across decades. Invest in long-term ideas and in people who never lose sight of their vision. Most companies you see turning into unicorns today were actually conceived 10-15 years ago and lived a quiet life outside the hype (as was the case for all our marketplace businesses at one point in time).

2. Stick to what you know and focus where you can add more value than others

Schibsted has tons of experience embedded in our various teams in the Nordics. We also have strong brands which reach the majority of the Nordic population daily. This is the time to use those assets and experiences and invest in ideas where we can help accelerate them beyond what other owners can.

3. Revenues are vanity, profits are sanity

A start-up or new organic business doesn’t necessarily need to be profitable in the near term. But your unit economics need to be! That is, selling a customer a product for 1 USD that costs you 2 USD to acquire is not a sound business model (it’s scary how often founders miss this).

4. Love your founders and leaders who can adapt to changing conditions

If the world changes, your plans need to change with it (although the vision can remain). Smart founders and lea­ders are the ones who are ready to pivot and change both strategies and short-term plans when customer sentiment rapidly changes or when the funding environment or technology evolves.

5. Understand that companies are built, not born

If you’ve built, or supported, an entrepreneur from company conception to success, you know that success truly is a factor of thousands of gruelling fights and mistakes. In a start-up, you chew glass and barbed wire for breakfast, but you always make sure to make one good decision for every two bad decisions. You also incorporate those tiny feedback loops from your customers into corporate strategy and culture on a weekly basis. Over months and years, those tiny, accumulated improvements could be tomorrow’s category winner.

Andrew Kvålseth
EVP, Chief Investment Officer
Years in Schibsted: 1

Living in war

Living in war

When Russia invaded Ukraine, hundreds of thousands fled west – and millions remained to defend themselves and continue their lives. Future Report has collected some of the best pictures from photographers employed by Schibsted’s newspapers who has visited the warzone. Photo: Staffan Löwstedt

April, 2022. After enduring weeks of Russian bombardment, only a few residents remain i the Saltivka area in Charkiv. Photo: Harald Henden, VG

September, 2022. “Only my children, or my grandchildren, will see the end of this war,” says sniper Oksana. Photo: Linus Sundahl-Djerf, SvD

May, 2022. Nikita from Charkiv celebrates her birthday in the subway, where she’s lived for two months. She loves it down here, and wants to become a subway driver when she grows up. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman, SvD

March, 2022. Women in the Isidia clinic give birth while bombs fall outside. At 7 pm every day, staff, mothers and newborn move down into the basement for protection. Photo: Nora Savosnick, Aftonbladet

September, 2022. A refurbished SAS airplane transports injured Ukranian soldiers to hospitals in Western Europe, mainly in Germany and the Netherlands. Photo: Jan Tomas Espedal, Aftenposten

July 2022. Captain Dmytro Pletentsjuk inspects the destruction in Mykolaiv. Photo: Paal Audestad, Aftenposten

September, 2022. Six kilometres behind the frontline near Cherson, Ukrainian artillerymen return fire at the Russian positions. Photo: Harald Henden, VG

March 2022. Olha Shmymal, 20, says goodbye to Volodomyr Moliadynets, 24, as he’s leaving for the warzones in the east. Photo: Krister Hansson, Aftonbladet

September, 2022. When Aftenposten visits the military graveyard outside of Charkiv, workers have just started using excavators instead of digging by hand. Photo: Jan Tomas Espedal, Aftenposten

Campanyon makes nature accessible to everyone

Campanyon makes nature accessible to everyone

Campanyon makes nature accessible to everyone

Campanyon makes nature accessible to everyone

The way we travel is changing. During the pandemic the few opportunities left for travel were local and in nature, away from crowds. With tourism now back in full swing, the industry is signalling that this trend is here to stay. And Norwegian start-up Campanyon is at the forefront of it.

With over 10,000 bookable stays across more than 20 countries, the online booking platform Campanyon has already established itself as the leading platform for outdoor stays across the Nordics – only a year after launch. It’s now aiming to strengthen its position across Europe.

Talk to any entrepreneur and they’ll tell you that timing is critical in terms of both when to launch and to succeed with a new business. The same held true for Kristian Qwist Adolphsen and Alexander Raknes, the two founders of Campanyon, when they decided to explore Campanyon as a new business idea in spring 2020.

A passion for sports and the outdoors

The two originally met while studying at Copenhagen Business School, where they quickly became friends due to their shared passion for entrepreneurship, sports and the outdoors.They ended up working together at the digital marketing agency Precis Digital, and eventually, they both joined Google. It was there that the first ideas around Campanyon were formed.

Campanyon makes nature accessible to everyone
Campanyon’s founders: Aline Nieuwlaat, Werner Huber, Kristian Qwist Adolphsen, Alexander Raknes and Sven Röder.

After being sent home from the Google offices shortly after the Covid pandemic hit, the pair spotted some new and interesting trends emerging across various industries, as a direct result of the lockdown. One of the trends that captured their attention was the increasing appetite for being in nature, as people were longing to escape isolation but were banned from travelling abroad. This resulted in new records for nature-focused and camping-related search terms and overnight stays.

Alexander and Kristian decided to do more research on this budding market and quickly realised it was extremely difficult to both find and book places in nature in a seamless way, mainly due to it being a very fragmented market consisting of small platforms with limited supply. At the same time, they couldn’t find any platform in the Nordics that attempted to unlock unused private land for campers to book and stay.

“It was very clear from early on that the market and appetite for local, authentic, and nature-focused stays was growing. At the same time, there were very few established players offering user-friendly solutions – which we found interesting,” Kristian says.

Being an avid skier, surfer and mountaineer, Alexander could relate to the trend they were observing.

“I, too, had been longing for cheaper and more sustainable options to spend the night in nature, get local tips and meet like-minded people.”

Teamed up with former colleagues

Those insights led to the early-start of Campanyon, which began during late spring of 2020. A few months later, the two teamed up with former colleagues Aline Nieuwlaat, Sven Röder and Werner Huber, who all are very experienced with product engineering and UX design, and they quickly became Campanyon’s co-founders, too.

Aline was just wrapping up her work on a food app when Alex called her to let her know about the idea for Campanyon, something that immediately resonated with Aline.

“I’m a passionate camper so when Alex called, I was instantly committed to join the journey! Just before that I saw an ad from another player in the market and thought to myself how smart the idea was to offer private land to campers.”

Funnily enough, the five co-founders are based in five different countries. The first time they met in person after they started working on Campanyon was in December 2021 – the day they signed the deal with Schibsted Ventures in Oslo and around one-and-a-half years after they began working together on Campanyon.

Being born out of Covid and having a fully remote setup from day one, the team knew this would come with both opportunities and challenges. They have been fortunate to learn from leading companies, such as Google, on how to approach and adapt to working remotely and they have introduced some of the things that worked well directly into Campanyon, while skipping the things that weren’t quite as efficient.

Campanyon makes nature accessible to everyone

In the early days, it was clear that too many initiatives were being launched all at once, to make everyone in the organisation comfortable with the new setting of working remotely. This meant almost daily check-in meetings, coffee huddles, shared lunch breaks and other attempts at creating a shared working experience – which to some extent had the opposite effect.

The tech team is the perfect example of Campanyon’s effective teamwork.  For Sven, hiring and scaling has been a fantastic challenge and opportunity as the CTO. His team consists of a healthy mix of employees and freelancers from all over Europe.

“We have some incredible talent on board that is motivated to work in an ‘always on’ start-up environment. Open communication and cloud tools that support our development flow allow for rapid iterations of UI/UX and continuous updates of our services.”

Crucial to have local people on the ground

Campanyon has people working from nine different countries now, and nowhere is that more palpable than in the sales team. Kristian sees it as crucial to their success.

“Having local people on the ground across our key markets has been instrumental in growing both supply and demand. The local presence gives us the opportunity to establish relationships with key stakeholders and offer customer service at a different level, something that is particularly important in the Southern European markets we operate in.”

Campanyon got off to a great start since its launch in 2021. Or as Kristian puts it, they’ve been extremely busy growing since the launch.
“Since we launched the platform last year in April, we have grown from around 100 host listings in Denmark and Norway to more than 3,000 host listings across more than 20 markets.”

Alexander, who embodies the companionship that is core to the company’s ethos, visits many of the newly onboarded hosts to get feedback and foster a sense of community.

“I’ve already met a lot of campers and great hosts in unique places, and all of whom have stories that I want more people to hear.”
Campanyon experienced a huge appetite for joining the platform early on and they have used various channels to create awareness and grow the number of hosts in efficient ways.

“We have also seen a large number of organic signups from hosts in locations we don’t actively target, which is really funny and also inspiring, as we see the project resonates across so many different countries and cultures,” Kristian says.

Going forward, the focus for Cam­panyon will remain on growing in key markets in Europe to further establish their position as the leading platform for stays in nature, while continuing to enhance the user experience to become “campers’ best friend”.

Author Jeremy Sudibyo

Jeremy Sudibyo
Brand & Content, Campanyon
Years in Schibsted: 1

These leaders know how to manipulate journalists

“These leaders know how to manipulate journalists”

These leaders know how to manipulate journalists
Vegard Tenold Aase grew up in Norway’s second city, Bergen. He has written for Norwegian newspapers, as well as such American publications as Rolling Stone magazine and the New York Times. The Emmy-nominated journalist lives and works in New York and he’s specializing in extremism.  

“These leaders know how to manipulate journalists”

Few journalists have interviewed as many extremists as Norwegian Vegard Tenold Aase, correspondent for New York-based VICE News. He urges colleagues not to take the task lightly.

“I know nothing about sports. That’s why I don’t write about sports. I don’t review operas either. Naturally, editors don’t send amateurs on those kinds of assignments. They understand that knowledge is the key to critical journalism. Yet extremism seems to be an exception. It seems they think any reporter is qualified to interview a fascist,” says Tenold Aase.

Vegard Tenold Aase faced a pistol pointed at his Adam’s apple at a Klu Klux Klan gathering. He was caught in the crossfire between neo-Nazis and anti-fascists wielding bricks. For several years, he lived close to American extremists, resulting in the book “Everything you love will burn: Inside the rebirth of white nationalism in America” in 2017.

More fascinated than appalled

“It started with me writing a thesis at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. Then I heard that there were neo-Nazis living in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. That was strange, I thought, being someone from orderly and tolerant Norway,” he says.

His first articles suggested that he was more fascinated than appalled by the extremism he was describing. That all changed on 22 July 2011, when terror attacks by a right-wing extremist left 77 people dead at home in Norway.

“I saw the need for deeper understanding, and I became more aware of the dangers of poorly founded journalism about extremism.”

Warned about inviting Bannon

When Trump’s then-adviser Steve Bannon was invited to Nordic Media Days in 2019, Tenold Aase was among those who warned against it. It may seem paradoxical that a journalist who had published interviews with countless conspiracy theorists and demagogues was critical about others giving the same kind of people a speaker’s podium.

“I’m not opposed to interviewing extremists, but we must know why we are doing it and we must understand how to do it. These leaders are calculating. They know how to appear more harmless than they are. They know what it takes to manipulate journalists,” he says.

Tenold Aase finds it disturbing to read cozy “fluff” interviews with neo-Nazis in major American newspapers. The basis seems to be that “these people could have been like you and me”.

“When I started covering extremists, they were as naive as I was. The majority weren’t used to the news media. So, it was easy for me, a bald and innocent foreigner from Bergen, Norway, to gain access. Now many extremists are professional communicators. In the United States, a new form of extremism has turned the country upside down.”

What can journalism contribute? What should we do to fight extremism?

“We need to take a step back. Here in the US, we experienced the storming of Congress, we have the QAnon movement, and a deep division in the population. But we must not assume that everyone who was there in Washington on January 6 were fascists and extremists. We need to explain where all that anger comes from.”

But is it possible for us – many people will think that we haven’t earned their trust; that liberal, privileged and urban journalists don’t understand their own era?

“That is correct here in the United States. The press hasn’t done a good enough job. I think the death of community journalism has had a big impact. People need journalists close to them who understand everyday life. We know that many white people are furious, they feel let down by the system. There are people who feel that they are deprived of opportunities. Such currents are far more journalistically interesting than interviewing individuals who have found answers in extremist ideology.”

What about the future here in the Nordics? Any advice?

“I have noticed the election results in Sweden and that certain circles are on the rise. My advice would be to understand why people are angry. There can be legitimate reasons for deep dissatisfaction. This is what journalism should highlight.”

Author Gard Steiro

Gard Steiro
Publisher, VG
Years in Schibsted: 22

Are we dreaming big enough?

Are we dreaming big enough

Are we dreaming big enough?

Are we dreaming big enough?

CRISPR-Cas9 has given us tools to rewrite life. The discovery on how to edit our genes is said to be the holy grail of science with possibility to fix gene disorders and improve people’s lives. Yet, not that many treatments or applications has been developed. How come?

A few years ago, American biochemist and Nobel prize winner Jennifer Doudna was working on her laptop in an airport lounge in New Jersey, when a couple walking by with their two boys caught her attention. The younger boy made his way on crutches, displaying signs of a hereditary disease called muscular dystrophy.

“Generally manifesting in childhood, the disease steadily robs those who have it of their ability to walk. Eventually, I knew, the crutches would no longer be enough,” she recalled in an article in The Atlantic.

Are we dreaming big enough?

Doudna had just come from a meeting where a cure for the boy’s disease appeared possible, using CRISPR technology to rewrite the DNA of kids just like him.

“Imagining how the technology I’d helped create could change this boy’s life, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Beyond hope and wonder, I was filled with a sense of fierce urgency to expand CRISPR’s impact to the people around the world who need it most,” she wrote.

In 2020, Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for the development of a method for genome editing”, known as CRISPR-Cas9. As with many great scientific achievements, scientists before them had made ground-breaking discoveries that paved the way for their work.

The potential of their discovery seems endless.

In 1987, Japanese molecular biologist Yoshizumi Ishino and his colleagues discovered a protein named Cas9 found in the Streptococcus bacterial “CRISPR” immune system that co-operates with guide RNA and works like scissors. The protein slices up the DNA of viruses, preventing them from infecting the bacterium. This natural defence system was later characterised by the Spanish molecular biologist and microbiologist Francisco Mojica. However, it was Doudna and Charpentier who showed, in 2012, that they could use different RNAs to program the protein to cut and edit different DNA. The potential of their discovery seems endless.

The blueprint of our lives

“It’s a little scary, quite honestly,” Doudna told The New York Times about the possibilities of our CRISPR future. “But it’s also quite exciting.”

Our DNA is called the blueprint of life. It contains the genetic code, which is essentially the instructions for creating an organism. By altering our DNA, we can, in a sense, rewrite the rules of life. Our eye colour, hair colour, height and the size of our noses – it’s all determined by our genes. Unfortunately, errors in our DNA can cause severe diseases. Sickle cell disease, Cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome and Huntington’s disease are examples of genetic disorders.

Are we dreaming big enough?

“If we could go in and fix these mistakes, we could save many, many lives and get rid of these diseases,” philanthropist Bill Gates has explained. Editing DNA with precision has, as he puts it, been the holy grail for scientists for decades. His foundation is funding work to see if CRISPR can be used to knock out mosquito populations dramatically, as well as to make better seeds, help with very accurate diagnostics, and lead to cure for HIV and things like sickle cell. CRISPR has also been used to enable T-cells (a part of the immune system that focuses on specific foreign particles) to find and destroy cancer cells.

As Gates points out, using the CRISPR gene editing tool for curing diseases isn’t very controversial. The idea of changing the DNA that determines your baby’s eye colour or skin tone, however, is another story. Most scientists agree that this is something we should not do. But where should we draw the line? And how do we make sure we don’t cross it?

It needs a push

In her article, Jennifer Doudna writes that the advances made so far – and those still to come in preventive medicine, diagnostics, agriculture, biomanufacturing and synthetic biology – promise to improve the lives of millions of people. They’ve also launched companies and helped existing ones break new ground. This growing CRISPR economy was estimated at USD 5.2 billion in 2020. Venture capitalists poured more than USD 1 billion into the growing ecosystem of genome-editing companies in 2021 alone.

“Sometimes, when I think about my part in all this, I am overcome,” Doudna writes. At the same time, she asks: Are we dreaming big enough? Moving quickly enough?

Her answer is “no”. She compares it with cell phones, which went from a niche luxury technology to outnumbering the human population, creating new economies and changing the way we live. For the CRISPR technology to be widely adopted, it needs a push, just like mobile phones did, Doudna argues.

“Realizing CRISPR’s full potential will require many more of us to come together. (…) Academic scientists, industry researchers, investors, policymakers and members of the public each have a role to play,” she concludes.

Positive reactions

After reading Doudna’s article, I couldn’t help but wonder why more wasn’t being done to make sure we seize this possibility to improve the lives of so many people. Here we have a pioneer of her field, waving her incredible tool, urging the world to see its potential and use it. I was curious to know if she had received any reactions to the article. Had it been the wake-up call she might have hoped?

In an e-mail, Doudna’s Lab Coordinator Keana Lucas assured me that the reactions to The Atlantic op-ed were positive.

“At this 10th-anniversary mark, it’s clear that CRISPR tech has made remarkable progress. Winning the Nobel has only brightened the spotlight and amount of investment and engagement in a technology that promises to positively change our health and the health of our world,” she told me.

A Swiss army knife

What about Emmanuelle Charpentier? Where does she stand on all this? Emmanuelle Charpentier is a French professor and researcher in microbiology, genetics and biochemistry. As of 2015, she has been a director at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin. Between 2009 and 2017, she worked as a research director and guest researcher at Umeå University in Sweden. In a video clip on the University’s website from 2015 – five years before she received the Nobel prize – Charpentier explained her discovery as “a Swiss army knife that allows repairing genes”.

“If you want to discover something important, you need to ask maybe crazy questions. It is when I came to Umeå that I developed a project that was to somehow bring together two different mechanisms that became the CRISPR-Cas9 mechanism,” she says, adding that her ultimate wish is that the technology be used to treat serious genetic disorders.

She believes that one of the greatest dangers we face is that the basic sciences are no longer attractive to young people.

In 2019, Charpentier founded a company called CRISPR Therapeutics. In 2022, the company published preliminary results from a clinical trial showing that 15 patients with beta thalassemia – a severe type of anaemia that requires lifelong reliance on blood transfusions – had gone months without needing transfusions after receiving a drug that edited the gene that caused the disease. In an interview with El País, she explained that she is focused on looking for new forms of gene editing to combat antibiotic-resistant infections. She also said she believes that one of the greatest dangers we face is that the basic sciences are no longer attractive to young people, people who will need to invent new treatments and medicines in the future.

“I think we all – and especially young people – need to ask ourselves what kind of world we want to live in,” she told the Spanish newspaper.

Marcus Jarås is a Swedish associate professor at the Department of Clinical Genetics at Lund University. His work focuses on using CRISPR to find new targets for cancer treatments. Using CRISPR to better understand the biology behind different diseases is the most common way of using the technology today, he explains. Swedish scientists were quick to start using the CRISPR technology, but as far as Jarås knows, it hasn’t led to any new treatments yet. That isn’t surprising, however, considering that it normally takes ten years from discovery to approval of a new treatment.

Use of CRISPR as a gene therapeutic treatment is further complicated by the fact that there are patents in the field that require licenses for technical commercial services, Jarås adds. In part, he shares Doudna’s analysis that CRISPR needs a nudge.

“More can always be done, but I still think that CRISPR has very quickly established itself as a powerful new tool for gene editing, not least in biomedical research. On the other hand, things are slow with CRISPR in plant breeding due to the GMO debate that led to EU legislation that makes it difficult to use this technology. In this area, CRISPR could really use a push,” he says.

Needs to be handle with caution

But if CRISPR can fix errors in our DNA code, could it also accidentally cause them harm? According to Swedish researchers at Uppsala University, who’ve experimented with editing the DNA of zebrafish using the tool, the answer is “yes”. Their studies show that there were several types of unexpected changes to the fish DNA.

Sometimes, larger parts of the DNA than intended were changed. Other times, the edits were made in the wrong part of the genetic material. The researchers also saw that the mutations could be passed on to future generations of zebrafish since they had occurred in fertilized egg cells. The techniques currently being developed for humans, however, are not using reproductive cells. There is, in other words, no risk that the changes – good or bad – can be passed on to the offspring.

The point of the research, according to the scientists, is not to suggest that gene scissors are an unfit tool for treatment. Only, that it needs to be handled with caution. The Uppsala University team is now focusing on improving the safety of CRISPR-
Cas9 therapies, where cells from a patient are genetically enhanced outside of the body and reinjected as a treatment.

“Such treatments are now being developed for a wide range of diseases. Our aim is to develop efficient methods to screen for unwanted mutations in the genetically modified cells,” says Adam Ameur, Associate Professor at the Science for Life Laboratory at Uppsala University.

So, the question remains – are we using this tool to its full potential – and if not, what possible advancements are we missing out on when it comes to decreasing pain and suffering? Is it the idea of rewriting the rules for life that is holding us back, or is it simply the time it takes to make sure we get it right? Not even the inventors of the technology seem to know the answer.

Author Mikaela Akerman

Mikaela Åkerman
Editor, Omni
Years in Schibsted: 8

Our sonic attention is worth fighting for

Our sonic attention is worth fighting for

Our sonic attention is worth fighting for
The politics podcast “En runda till” (“One more round”) with Soraya Hashim, My Rohwedder and Lena Mellin is recorded in Aftonbladet’s studio in Stockholm.

Our sonic attention is worth fighting for

While companies around the world are engaged in an intensifying battle for users’ screen time, the rise of audio might be the next frontier in winning user attention.

Fuelled by wireless headset adoption and an ever-growing selection of content made for listening, the audio trend represents a major opportunity for any company that aims to be relevant during all those moments that users are away from their screens.

Although we cannot accurately predict how much total screen time (and news publishers’ share of it) will grow in the coming years, we clearly see that time spent on audio is growing rapidly. Around the world, more and more people listen regularly, and each person listens for a longer period of time.

In Norway, the share of users listening to podcasts per month has nearly doubled, from 24% in 2017 to 43% in 2020, with Norwegian-language podcasts leading the charge. Users aged 16 to 24 show the highest adoption rates, with listeners in this group averaging nearly two hours per day on podcasts or audiobooks. Among Swedish users in general, average time spent on podcasts and radio daily already matches that of digital news consumption.

Different from radio

While audio as a product is nothing new per se, there are many ways in which the current move to audio is different from traditional broadcast radio:

  • It is fuelled partially by hardware adoption, led by AirPods’ exponential growth, having captured more than one-third of the wireless earbuds market. And several other wearable devices have also seen double-digit sales growth over the last few years. A 2022 report estimates that three in four US teens now own AirPods. The convenience of these new devices means people now wear headphones more often and in situations they previously wouldn’t – even while talking to their friends!
  • Our mobile devices are always connected, enabling users to listen to any topic, any time, while doing other things. The ability to multitask is, as one would expect, one of the main reasons users turn to audio in their busy lives.
  • Lastly, the sheer volume of content is growing rapidly, with an entire publishing industry transitioning to audio books, and all-time-high investments from tech- and media companies going into the podcast industry.

As users move to airpods for consuming content, we also see that several audio-first start-ups have emerged over the past few years. In addition, industry experts talk about wearable audio as the first mass market adoption of augmented reality devices. For many young users, audio is their primary channel for news. Clearly, publishers who want to stay relevant must find their place in the audio domain.

For news organisations, understanding the opportunity that comes with audio starts with acknowledging how the newspaper landscape has changed. We’ve gone from a world of physically distributed newspapers, where there was little competition and a general scarcity of information, to a world of unlimited digital distribution and global competition for attention. In this world, news organisations are not just competing against each other, but rather against any company distributing their product on a screen. Those other companies include technology giants with massive budgets and a world-class ability to get users addicted to their products.

News attracts users attention

We know that tech and streaming giants dominate users’ visual attention, and it seems unlikely that news publishers will turn the tide on that anytime soon. But in the audio world, news as a category gets an outsized share of users’ attention, accounting for 30% of top podcast episodes despite comprising only 7% of podcasts.

However, increasing audio content production for news organisations does not come without its challenges:

  • The cost for voice actors and studio time remains high
  • Recording and editing takes several times that of actual audio output
  • There’s a risk of spending significant resources on content of low interest

The nature of news as perishable limits the types of content that can be produced without becoming outdated as stories evolve. Today, publishers mostly accept the fact that investments in the audio domain are expensive, and that it will be worth the effort in the long run. But there are also ways that technology can enable production of more audio in smarter ways.

Firstly, the need for studios may soon disappear, as cheaper and more mobile recording setups hit the market. Companies like Nomono (which Schibsted recently invested in) are challenging the existing workflow as well as the costs associated with high-quality podcast production.

Secondly, for narrated articles, we might soon get rid of the need for both studios and narrators entirely as text-to-speech technology matures. A synthetic voice that can read any text input out loud offers some unique advantages. It allows for unlimited production of narrated articles with near zero marginal cost, as it converts a written text into audio within seconds. Since it is connected to the publisher’s CMS, it also enables flexibility to update and edit published stories, without ever needing to step into a studio. The fact that it can be scaled across the entire daily article output of a newspaper also means that users can rely on the feature to listen to any article they prefer and do so while commuting or cooking at home. Since many users cancel their subscriptions because they simply don’t have enough time to sit down and read all the articles they pay for every day, solving this “bad conscience-problem” for subscribers might be a key factor in reducing the churn rates most newspapers are seeing.

Listeners complete more of a  story

Early results from text-to-speech experiments in Aftenposten show that the gap between human and synthetic voices is closing in terms of listener retention, and that users opting for audio consumption complete more of each story compared to text. Plans for enabling users to save stories for later listening, as well as the ability to queue synthetically narrated articles after premium flagship podcasts, may all lead to more widespread adoption of audio as a mode of news consumption. The result might be a significant increase in the total time users spend engaging with Aftenposten’s journalism each day – read more about it on the next page.

Looking back at the battle for users’ screen time, as described earlier, could it be that by focusing on users’ eyeballs, we miss an emerging behaviour change that may one day account for most of our time? The next frontier in winning user attention might in fact be about sonic attention, and those who make the right investments now may be on a course to become the giants of the audio world.

Author Karl Oskar Teien

Karl Oskar Teien
Director of Product, Schibsted Subscription Newspapers
Years in Schibsted: 8

A local news focus brought BT back from the brink

A local news focus brought BT back from the brink

A local news focus brought BT back from the brink
Starting in 2021, Bergens Tidende published a series of investigations on Rolls-Royce’s sale of Bergen Engines to a Russian holding company. The newspaper was awarded Norway’s most prestigious journalism award for the reports.

A local news focus brought BT back from the brink

In only six years, Bergens Tidende went from crisis to “digitally sustainable”. A clear local focus, live reporting and investigative journalism have made the readers happy.

Bergens Tidende’s business had been booming for decades. At its peak, the newspaper reached about 260,000 readers every day, with 100,000 copies in circulation. The paper, as it was said, “printed money”. But as the media crisis hit, the glory days soon vanished. By 2015, BT was facing the wall. The model wasn’t working.

Six years later, in December 2021, the tables had turned yet again. Øyulf Hjertenes, the director of Schibsted Kyst and Chairman of the Board at Bergens Tidende, declared BT to be “digitally sustainable”. He explains:

“If BT closed down the printed edition tomorrow, digital revenues from subscription and ads will uphold a strong newsroom. The paper will still be able to keep holding power to account in Bergen. Back in 2015, most people didn’t believe this would be possible,” Hjertenes says.

A local news focus brought BT back from the brink
The staff at Bergens Tidende celebrate a new record number of subscribers.

What made this comeback possible?

Back in 2015 subscriber numbers were dropping fast, and the economy was in a bad shape. Print revenues kept falling, and a digital business model mainly based on ads and pageviews were not producing sufficient results. Costs of NOK 50 million had to be cut. The printed Sunday edition was shut down and one out of five journalists had to leave. The financial forecasts were bleak and nowhere near digital sustainability.

Something had to change.

A clear and ambitious goal

The turnaround was enabled by a clear and ambitious goal: 50,000 digital subscribers in three years. In the BT newsroom, it became known as the “50k strategy”. It drastically changed BT’s way of working, priorities across the whole newsroom, consumer business and product and technology.

The strategy outlined new priorities for everyone and set up ten pillars for improvement. BT would prioritise live reporting and longform quality journalism – and do less of the “in-between”. There would be fewer stories, stronger focus on unique local reporting, while letting go of most generic national and international stories. BT wanted to bolster its position as the primary news destination in Bergen. The entire organisation was tailored towards being subscriber-centric.

Introduced new tools

In the coming years, new tools for live reporting, storytelling, data analytics, debate and reader involvement were introduced. Algorithms were implemented on the frontpage, and data and insight capabilities were introduced in the newsroom. Cross-functional work became the norm, performance numbers were posted front and centre at the offices, and staff started celebrating major shared milestones.

Live reporting became especially important. A specific improvement point identified in 2015 was to find better ways to convey brief, developing news to readers. The news feed “Trafikken direkte” (Traffic Direct) was established to meet the needs of the users for live traffic reporting.

Successful updates

Bergen is a city with a vulnerable infrastructure. One accident in the main road tunnel is enough to make half the population late for dinner. Instead of spreading a few short news items across the BT.no front page, these updates were gathered in one place, harnessing traffic data for added value. This has become BT’s best-selling digital product.

“We were quite early to use live news studios. In fact, the tool first developed here has now been adopted in several parts of Schibsted,” says Liv Okkenhaug, head of breaking news.
In addition to a manual newsfeed with information about accidents, rush traffic or cancelled trains, BT integrated several automated services, such as traffic data from authorities, web cameras and queue maps. Input from commuters is also important.

A willingness to pay

From the beginning, BT has constantly worked on developing its live studio format, setting up several such news feeds.

“Our journalists pride themselves on reporting rapidly and thoroughly on everything from major catastrophes to tunnel or road closures. Quick, precise information is the main goal.”

In Okkenhaug’s view, people are much more willing to pay for these live studios than commonly expected.

“This is about providing people something that is useful in their day-to-day lives. Finding out how long they can expect to be stuck in traffic, for instance. Whether you are a nurse on your way to work, or if you are a professional driver, our traffic studio is helpful.”

Constantly looking for next theme

According to Okkenhaug, the editorial staff is constantly looking for the next theme where readers could use a hub. In the summer of 2022, it was the transport chaos throughout Europe. In the autumn, the staggering energy prices.

For her, the point is to build a culture of innovation that puts the users’ needs first. Live reporting helped change BT’s game. By Christmas 2019, the number of digital subscribers had passed the number of print subscribers, bringing overall subscription numbers to an all-time high.

In 2020, Frøy Gudbrandsen became editor-in-chief and continued to position BT as the readers’ “guide”. She pushed for new digital formats, investigative journalism and new subscriber options.

The effort for investigative journalism paid off. One of the paper’s most acclaimed projects, are the award-winning stories about Bergen Engines. The series of almost 100 articles are described as almost a spy thriller. They focus on how oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin almost took over a Norwegian engine company of vital national security importance.

Setting a national agenda

“Our journalism resulted in big consequences. The sale of Bergen Engines was stopped, and the Norwe­gian government received strong criticism in Parliament,” says Eystein Røssum, BT’s head of investigative journalism.

According to him, BT is a self-aware and ambitious newsroom, and that it’s natural for them to set a national agenda.

“Investigative journalism is part of the cornerstone of the entire BT project and is integrated into all journalistic work. We put together teams according to the case we are working on. It’s something everyone is involved in, not limited to an “elite group” of privileged journalists,” says Røssum.

The bleak prospects of 2015 have been turned around to a solid economy while still providing award-winning journalism. The paper has 85,000 subscribers, a 37% increase since 2015.

A common understanding

Øyulf Hjertenes believes that a common understanding of the situation and clear strategies and priorities were crucial for the organisation’s turnaround.

“The journalists and editors in the BT newsroom have high ambitions, and they don’t look back. There is a willingness to let go of who we are, for what we might become, and with such a mentality there is basically no limit to what we can achieve,” says Hjertenes.

He believes this ambitious culture is the explanation behind why BT is punching above its weight both in investigative journalism and in product development.

In 2021, Bergens Tidende won the “Newspaper of the Year” prize in Norway. The jury was impressed by how BT over the past year had increased its efforts in innovative and investigative journalism, close to people’s everyday lives. The jury noted that BT clearly “plays with technology and challenges the way stories are told”, and that “readers get an impressive journalistic product that is both important and entertaining.”

This is Bergens Tidende

  • Bergens Tidende is Norway’s fourth largest newspaper, and the country’s largest news­paper outside Oslo with 226,000 daily readers and 83,000 subscribers.
  • It was founded in 1868.
  • BT was published in tabloid format from 2006.
  • Part of the Schibsted family of digital brands since 2009.
  • The paper was awarded the European Newspaper of the Year in the regional newspaper category by the European Newspapers Congress in 2011.
  • In 2021, Bergens Tidende won the ”Newspaper of the Year” prize in Norway.

Author Liv Skotheim

Liv Skotheim
Managing Editor, Bergens Tidende
Years in Schibsted: 17

Workplace trends 2023

Workplace trends: 2023

Workplace trends 2023

Workplace trends

The world of work has changed dramatically in the last few years. Employees are more vocal about what they need from their employers, and companies must work harder to both attract and retain this elusive talent. These are the trends we believe will grow in the coming year.

Workplace trends 2023

Value driven employees

Today, employees are interested in more than high salaries and decent benefits – they want to work for firms that share their values. Research from CNBC/Momentive shows that the majority of workers wouldn’t even consider a position at a company that didn’t share their values, and about 40% would likely quit their jobs if their organisations took a stand on a political issue with which they do not agree. For companies, that means that being transparent about drivers and values can be hugely beneficial when hiring.

Upskilling and reskilling

Utilising people you already have in your organisation is not only more important than ever due to the war for talent in many spaces, it also creates a stronger organisation. Seeing and nurturing the underutilised skills of your employees, as well as developing new skills within your workforce, will create more skilled teams and likely more engaged employees. Not only that, hiring externally is difficult and expensive – something most organisations can’t afford in the current economy.

Inclusive leaders are in demand

What’s required of leaders is also changing, and companies need to take this into account. Democratic and empathic leadership is in demand. Successful companies need leaders capable of managing a diverse workforce made up of people with different needs and talents. Leading teams without discrimination and bias has always been important, but for many, the work has only just begun. We’ve seen in the previous trends that employees want their unique needs met, which means thriving companies must take this into consideration when choosing and training their leaders.

Workplace trends 2023

Fostering diversity, inclusion and belonging

Following the previous point – creating a workplace in which diversity, inclusion and belonging are crucial factors creates organisations where people are happier to work. And happy people make for good employees. Diversity of talent, backgrounds and personalities fosters innovation and mirrors the world your company is targeting. Making sure everyone feels comfortable being who they are at work will also open new opportunities and ideas that might otherwise have been overlooked or stifled.

Talents have global opportunities

During the pandemic, many companies realised the benefits of remote or hybrid ways of work, and though many big organisations are clamping down on working from home, others see its potential. The competition for talent now extends beyond the regions of your offices, as companies can hire exceptional talent regardless of distance. This means that talented individuals will have more job opportunities no matter where they are located – but it also means that the war for talent is far more competitive as the talent in question will have more choices.

Develop management in-house

Developing your management – not only your executives – is critical to success. Promoting talent without thorough management development can result in poor performance and dissatisfied teams. By developing the talent you already have in-house, you’re not just making use of a lot of existing knowledge, you are also more likely to retain them. Management development helps close skills gaps at an organisational level and increases your human capital: the knowledge, intelligence, and experience within your workforce.

Finding the right hybrid model that fits all

Continuing with trends borne out of the pandemic, employees are craving more flexibility in the way they work. That does include where to work – whether from their home, an office, or even on a sunny beach somewhere – but also when and how they work. A lot of people who started working from home in 2020 found that they could be more effective and enjoy their work more if they had more flexibility to decide when they worked best. For some, that still means a nine-to-five workday in the office, but for others, it may mean splitting their workdays into chunks of two or four hours, enabling them to pick up kids from school and spend time with their families during the afternoon, and then get a couple of hours of work in after the kids have gone to bed – for example.

Workplace trends 2023

You need to offer personal growth

Following the big shifts in the job market over the last couple of years, whether you want to call it the great resignation, the big quit or the great re-shuffle, a lot of potential employees want and expect more from their workplace. The need for growth in the workplace now goes beyond professional – people are looking for personal growth as well. Being able to facilitate this in your organisation, through mentorship programs, soft skills development or other offerings, will make you far more attractive as an employer. The future of work is also about employee well-being. Staying healthy and happy at work is in many ways crucial.

An AI voice makes news accessible to everyone

An AI voice makes news accessible to everyone

An AI voice makes news accessible to everyone

An AI voice makes news accessible to everyone

Why limit the audio presentation of journalism to podcasts? Aftenposten’s cloned voice will be able to present all the newspaper’s content – and by doing so, give everyone access to the same information.

Today a large part of society is left out when it comes to consuming journalism. It is, in fact, a democratic problem that media prevents people from getting information about society because much content is only accessible as text. This is also a big risk for news companies, as they may be missing out on a market opportunity by not offering an audio alternative to the huge amount of written journalism produced every day.

According to Dysleksi Norge, between 5 and 10% of all Norwegians suffer from dyslexia. This means that as many as 270,000 to 540,000 children and adults in Norway are reluctant to consume written journalism. This is not the only group who have challenges with reading. People with attention deficit disorder concentrate better when listening instead of reading. Refugees and asylum seekers who are in the process of learning Norwegian also find it very helpful to be able to listen and read Norwegian simultaneously.

Students struggle to read

When Aftenposten started looking into this, we primarily had our newspaper for kids in mind – Aftenposten Junior skole. Since this is a news product for use in public schools, we are obligated to fulfil all accessibility requirements.

We learned from teachers that 92% of them have students who struggle to read in their classroom, and we were even told that schools were not interested in buying our product if we could not offer text-to-speech.

Two important observations and findings from our research also convinced us that adults in the future will have needs quite similar to today’s users of Aftenposten Junior skole.

Firstly, we observed that many kids, beyond those who struggle to read, actively chose to listen to the text. And today’s kids and teenagers are potentially future subscribers who tend to bring their media habits from childhood into adulthood. After observing how popular listening is when given the choice between sound and text, we are pretty sure that we need to have a sound alternative ready for them before they grow up.

Secondly, dyslexia and attention deficit are lifelong problems. This means that people who suffer from it will probably still prefer to listen to a long article instead of reading when they grow up, and they will not find our news products worth paying for unless we can offer more than text-based journalism.

A voice you can recognise

Our primary goal was to make an artificial voice with the highest possible quality. That is why we offer a cloned voice and not a purely synthetic voice. A synthetic voice is an artificial voice that is not meant to sound like a specific, real person. A cloned voice, on the other hand, is created in the same way as a synthetic voice but simulates the speech of a real person. That means that if it is a voice that is familiar to you, you will recognise the voice and may even struggle to understand that it is not a real person but rather an artificial cloned voice that’s reading the news for you.

To build an artificial voice we needed speech data. Speech data in this context is recorded sentences from our newspapers. Using our past articles, our collaborator, BeyondWords, extracted 6,812 phonetically rich utterances. These sentences were recorded by Anne Lindholm, a podcast host in Aftenposten, who is now also the voice behind our cloned voice.

After processing the speech data and training a neural network, the first version of the voice was ready – and it was impressive. Anne herself could not believe how similar it had become to her own voice. Still, as with all other AI-features, we needed to train it to improve it. By training we mean that a person listened to a huge amount of sound files that were converted from articles and reported mistakes.

A linguist from the company that developed the voice technology then made corrections to the phonemic dictionary that served as the foundation for the quality of the cloned voice.  When a mistake is corrected in this way, the correction will affect all future articles in which the same words occur. Over the last few months, the voice improved a lot and we are soon ready to scale up so that you can hear the voice on many more Aftenposten articles.

Many benefits with a robot

When it comes to the quality of the voice, a real voice still beats the robotic one. But we have done A/B tests between the real voice and the artificial voice, and the results indicate that the quality difference is not very high and that the benefits with a robot voice outweigh the disadvantages.

One of the benefits has to do with the nature of digital presentation of news. When a dramatic incident first occurs, like the start of the war in Ukraine, the news gets updated from minute to minute, and it is impossible for a real person to compete with the speed of updating audio files with the cloned voice.  Not to mention the cost of having a real person doing multiple recordings of an updated article, as well as the time saved for the journalists, who can instead focus on the next news article.

Artificial intelligence and our cloned voice have the potential to be revolutionary and make a hugely positive impact for large groups in our society who now can access journalism they could never access before.

This is why we believe that offering a robot voice based on artificial intelligence is an important bet on the future of journalism. It shows that new technology can contribute to a more open and inclusive society where everyone has access to the same information.

Author Lena Beate Hamborg Pedersen

Lena Beate Hamborg Pedersen
Product Manager, Schibsted Subscription Newspapers
Years in Schibsted: 3