Nordic warrior: transforming revenue models at Schibsted

Norwegian-headquartered media giant Schibsted is often held up as a business that has transformed itself in recent years to remain relevant and thriving. Tor Jacobsen, SVP and chief consumer officer at Schibsted Media explains how the company has retained a focus on revenue generation during that transformation, and the role data is playing in driving growth…

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Tell us about your role at Schibsted and the areas you have responsibility for…

My role is to oversee customer revenue for the media division, which is the larger of two divisions we have here at Schibsted – marketplaces and media. Schibsted Marketplaces consists of all online classifieds companies in the Schibsted portfolio – in more than 20 markets – including Finn in Norway, Blocket in Sweden and Leboncoin in France. Schibsted Media is a global media company driven by new technology and employing 7,000 people in 20+ countries, supporting 200 million users. I am responsible for the consumer revenue on the media side, including subscription revenue. On top of that, we invest in great digital companies and are really focused on how we can empower consumers by rethinking media.

It sounds as though the business focus has changed a lot in recent years. Tell us a bit about that and how your approach is different from others in the market…

Our 178-year reputation is originally from news and publishing, but modern growth has been in marketplaces, publishing and growth through investment in digital companies. It’s absolutely true that we have changed our focus a lot and that has led us to also change our revenue models. So nowadays we have different brands and publishers, then we also have a function for the consumer revenue and growth, which is about building a solution that is scalable. As an organisation we want to have efficient decision-making, clear priorities and speed to further build the business, scale our digital products and increase the market impact for our publishing and growth brands. In terms of how we are structured compared with others in our market, we are a little bit different because we still think all the brands are important. A lot of companies have a single brand taking care of everything but we still have those different brands.

Can you share a little about your ethos for managing the change you have been through. How have you driven that change and ensured a focus on revenue?

One of the key things is that we have a very strong focus and a cultural aspect that is very focused and very fuelled to grow the digital revenue. The markets here are very digitalised – across both Norway and Sweden – and we try to be as focused as we can and as creative as we can in raising that side of things. Building sustainable, high digital growth is certainly one of the biggest KPIs we have.

What other trends are you seeing in the region right now?

One of the biggest things, like in other places, is that people are willing to pay for news. Five years ago, people didn’t believe in paying for digital news. Now they are very willing to do so. We see people really willing to pay for news, to pay for music – so the whole paid-for content trend is doing very well. The other thing is that the subscription business is doing fantastically well, which is good for us given our model. Regarding the consumer side, that is getting more complicated. One trend there is that you are going from a very high sales focus to more of a focus on engagement, loyalty and longer-term customers. Another trend there is that we are going from focusing on just content to focusing on the experience – so how can we make the experience different for the paying customer compared with the non-paying customer – to ensure they genuinely have a reason to take that up? The third trend in that area is going from a more classical sales and marketing approach to a much more data-driven approach.

Tell us a bit more about the data element and how it’s viewed within the business…

The data and analytics are seen as a crucial component in the vast majority of the core processes of editorial and consumer business rather than a standalone function. We use audience data for several purposes, such as statistical modelling, content optimisation, pricing, segmentation, optimisation of customer service etc. The overall objective is to provide our users and customers with relevant and personalised experiences through fully data driven products.

Written by Jon Watkins.

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