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1M digital subscribers: How a Norwegian publisher is “using data in more sophisticated ways” to unlock growth

Norwegian publisher Schibsted reached 1M digital subscribers in September 2021. The achievement is the result of several decades of facing and overcoming the challenges of digital transformation. “Schibsted has made many difficult decisions along the way,” writes Siv Juvik Tveitnes, EVP, News Media at the publisher, in its annual Future Report. “It’s been a time of reorganizations, cost-cutting, mergers, and concern about the future.” 

All of which have borne fruit and the publisher is now looking to take on a new ambitious strategy. Tveitnes outlines the key battles publishers need to win to continue thriving in the future. 

“Meeting the needs of tomorrow’s media users”

While there is significant potential for growth, it will only happen through ongoing investment and innovation. The competition is tough and users are demanding. Schibsted relies on a “visionary product strategy to stay ahead when it comes to meeting the needs of tomorrow’s media users – at the same time as we meet their needs today,” says Tveitnes. The vision is “to be a natural part of everyone’s daily habits.”

The publisher does it by distinctly positioning its different brands. For example, VG and Aftonbladet strive to be the most important news destinations for readers. Aftenposten plays a more explanatory role, while Svenska Dagbladet focuses on delivering a smart news experience. Another brand, E24 is Norway’s biggest online destination for financial and business news.

Schibsted also keeps exploring opportunities for creating new media products and services that users will find valuable. The idea is to keep growing subscriptions through smart offerings. It has recently invested in the podcast platform Podme and acquired the outdoor recreation magazine Fri Flyt. “We will pursue our interest in companies and brands where we believe we can be good owners,” writes Tveitnes. “It’s natural for us to focus initially on the Nordic region. But in Schibsted anything is possible.”

The publisher will also continue experimenting with bundling – E24 helped it reach a much wider audience when it was offered along with its other brands. 

Through a more interwoven portfolio. We must create seamless user journeys that meet people’s needs. 

Siv Juvik Tveitnes, EVP News Media, Schibsted

“The outlook is much brighter”

While the pandemic dented advertising revenues, “the outlook is much brighter,” notes Tveitnes. Schibsted continues to invest in, and strengthen its position as a premium advertising avenue. It is prioritizing getting access to first-hand, high-quality data which can be a “major competitive advantage.” 

Data will play a crucial role in the growth of all business areas be it advertising, subscriptions, or product development. “Access to data on our users is vital for creating even more relevant new products, such as through personalization,” notes Tveitnes.

Our growth strategy is completely dependent on us using data in more sophisticated ways – and continually striving to improve the user experience.

Siv Juvik Tveitnes, EVP News Media, Schibsted

E-commerce and content marketing are the other businesses that it continues to develop as they will be “particularly important in the time ahead.”

“Understanding the great forces”

“To keep growing, Schibsted (and everyone else) will have to deal with the fact that the world is at a crossroad,” says Kristin Skogen Lund, CEO, Schibsted. “The digitalization of society has taken leaps during the pandemic, and everyone is racing to build and maintain a digital relationship with their customers. To succeed, they will need developers, UX-experts, engineers, and technologists.” 

That is a big challenge – according to Gartner’s Emerging Risks Survey 2021, global talent shortage is now the top emerging risk for all organizations. Additionally, research by Microsoft and others shows that a high percentage of the workforce wants remote working options and is willing to change jobs to do so. 

“There’s no easy way for employers to counter any of these fundamental changes,” suggests Lund. “Competing on compensation and benefits alone, for instance, may prove to be difficult when the global giants have seemingly bottomless war chests in the war for talent. However; one can compete on culture – offering a better place to work, and one can compete on purpose – offering a more meaningful place to work.”

The publisher has also created a project dedicated to helping it understand the mega-trends that will shape its future in the next five to ten years. “Understanding the great forces, how to use them to our advantage and create growth,” comments Zuzanna Zygadlo-Stenberg, Technology Strategy Lead, Schibsted. 

It’s collaborating with Tinius Trust/Blommenholm Industrier and the Future Today Institute on the project called the Horizon corporate strategy. The team has created trend clusters based on interviews with the top stakeholders and leaders and studying data to see which trends coincide with Schibsted’s interests. The next step involves modeling alternative futures that describe next-order actions. 

We will be “looking for signal data early, thinking about what that might mean, and starting to model alternative futures that describe next-order actions, “ explains Futurist and CEO of Future Today Institute, Amy Webb. “Where are all the possibilities for Schibsted to grow in ways that you just haven’t thought of before?”

“I think it’s all about recognizing those uncertainties but also exploring the white space.” 

Amy Webb, Founder, and CEO, Future Today Institute

The full report is available at Schibsted:
Schibsted Future Report 2022