27 February of 2014

Digitally challenged – The future of publishing houses

by Eva Sundby, Katrin Durst & Emre Kurt

Digitally Challenged

There’s a big chance that you are reading this on a smartphone or tablet. Maybe you are travelling, going to school or work, or maybe you just have some time to kill before you go to bed. But no matter when or where you’re reading this, your choice of going digital is changing the ways of traditional media.

More and more people prefer digital over printed news. Publishing houses therefore have to think differently and change their strategy. A global media company that is working on digital transformation is Norwegian based  company Schibsted Media Group. Being the largest media group in Norway they are looking at challenges like being one step ahead of the marked and their competitors.

The digital media specialist
Louise Vad is working as a “digital media specialist” at Schibsted and her job position is a result of Schibsted heading in a more digital direction. Her tasks involve “anything that is digitally communicated” and resolving digital challenges.

She works with a wide range of brands in Schibsted and sees on a daily basis how the digital transformation plays out. “It affects many aspects of how we work in the media houses”, she explains.

“We are competing in a global world with competitors like Facebook and Google and we all compete for people’s time spent and where they go to read news”, she says.

This means that Schibsted need to change its approach and Louise confirms that this is something they are working on. She continues: ““We can’t just sit and think we know what our readers and customers want, we have to know it for sure. This means using our data in a much more efficient way than we have been before. This is for example what Google is really good at”.

Three main challenges
Professor Dr. Boris Kühnle is the head of the Media Economics program at Stuttgart Media University in Germany. He lectures in publishing management and confirms what Louise is telling us. He divides the digital challenges into three critical categories.

Kühnle explains:  “First of all digitalisation is changing media behavior.  There is a bigger difference between younger people and the elderly. While younger people mostly use social and mobile media, the elderly still rely on traditional media channels. Publishers need to broaden the scope and portfolio, from print media to mobile and social media”.

The second critical challenge is the technology, which is often viewed as a threat, but Kühnle thinks it should be looked at as an opportunity. “Publishing companies need to understand how technology may help them to optimize their products and product portfolio”, he continues.

The last main challenge Kühnle talks about is competition. “Watch out for competition. In some areas publishers won’t win the race. So look out for co-operation, for example with start-ups, mobile network providers, tech companies and so on”.

Coping with the challenges
Schibsted’s headquarter is located in the city centre of Oslo, the capital of Norway. The building is large and professional looking, with of top security. Therefore it might come as a surprise that the most popular room in the building looks like a kindergarten, decorated with bright colors and large pillows. “This is the creativity room”, Louise explains. “This room was decorated to increase the creativity, and is now the most popular meeting room in the building”.


Another big challenge Schibsted has been facing is to get their users to pay for quality digital news. Louise tells us that the digitalisation has resulted in a decrease in subscription for printed news. “We have to find new ways of meeting our readers. Making our content available for readers and users in the channel and format they want, when they want is the way to go. We’re looking at more future-oriented business models for our media houses”, Louise explains.

A big milestone for Schibsted was when the paper Faedrelandsvennen launched, as the first in Norway, a pay model for the content of the digital newspaper. They increased their digital subscription in a very short amount of time. “This shows us that this works and we are transferring the experiences gained from Fædrelandsvennen to our other subscription-based media houses. People are willing to pay for the content and this is a very positive trend ”, says Louise.

New skills
According to Kühnle the interaction with the target group is critical to be one step ahead in a constantly changing market: “Interact with your target group, even more than you used to do. Be open-minded for co-operation with tech-driven companies. Develop your cross-media ability, provide audio-visual content and adopt social media as an instrument for doing coverage”, is his best advice.

Louise is positive that Schibsted is on the right track. “We believe that you can survive being a traditional media house in a digital age, but you have to change the way you run your business. New technologies are being developed, competition is global, and readers’ needs and expectations are changing. And all of this is happening at a faster pace than ever before. We see it as digital opportunities for digital media houses”.

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A Tale of Media Innovation