Schibsted sees B2B growth potential, simplifies subscription offer for companies

By Paula Felps


Nashville, Tennessee, USA


In Norway — a country with a high income, a higher level of education, and a high level of newspaper penetration — company managers traditionally have had their subscriptions paid for by their employers as one of their employee benefits. This makes the B2B market an attractive and profitable target market. And as both B2B and B2C print markets declined, Schibsted needed to find new ways to generate revenue while boosting subscriptions.

Although Schibsted has been in the B2B market for years, it increased its focus over the past few. And while the company wants to retain both B2C and B2B customers, the loss is felt more deeply when a B2B print customer is lost, said Siri Holstad Johannessen, head of sales and marketing at Schibsted: “If you have a big company suddenly wanting to stop subscribing to 100 or several hundred print subscriptions, that will definitely have an effect.”

Based on this changing market, Schibsted looked at the potential for growth within its existing subscription base. Out of 20,000 B2B customers, only 0.2% had more than 30 subscribers and just 24% of companies had a purely digital subscription. The goal Schibsted set was to target larger companies where 50%-70% of employees were users and migrate to 100% digital subscriptions.

“We still have a long way to go, but this is a very obvious goal for us,” Johannessen said.

As it eyed B2B growth potential, Schibsted looked at the opportunities within its existing subscriber base.
As it eyed B2B growth potential, Schibsted looked at the opportunities within its existing subscriber base.

At the same time, this allowed Schibsted to lower the subscription price from an average of US$450 per year per B2B user. (B2C subscribers pay an average of US$100 per year.) The ability to offer lower pricing based on the number of users was in line with the transition from print to digital, but a larger number of users would offset the lower costs, Johannessen said.

Changing segmentation

In the pre-conversion revenue model, most subscriptions within a company were segmented in four ways:

  • Subscriptions directly related to the company, paid for and delivered to the company.

  • Private subscriptions paid for by the company but delivered to an employee directly.

  • Private subscriptions paid for by and delivered directly to the employee, covered privately but payment is reimbursed by the company.

  • Private subscriptions paid for by and delivered to the employee.

The new strategy changed the way subscriptions are paid for.
The new strategy changed the way subscriptions are paid for.

The new strategy calls for one agreement with the company, giving the organisation one common B2B subscription. Most of the larger companies were not even aware of what they were spending on subscriptions, Johannessen said. 

By understanding the segmented model that companies were operating under, Schibsted was able to provide companies with compelling reasons for shifting to a single, digital subscription for employees:

  • Cost control over the subscriptions.

  • Ability to provide all-access subscriptions for all employees vs. offering print subscriptions for a few employees.

  • It complements the digital transformation happening with workplace tools.

  • It contributes to the company’s standing as a good steward of the environment, which is important to the country.

“B2B has a huge uncovered potential,” Johannessen said. “This is also the case for the potential B2B user revenue market at Aftenposten and Schibsted. As the media industry goes through a digital transformation … so does the market.”

Opportunities within the pandemic

When the pandemic forced Norway into a work-from-home environment, Schibsted realised it had been given an opportunity. 

“The remote working situation was really helpful and great motivation for moving [businesses] from [offering] print for just a few employees to digital for all,” Johannessen said. 

To help companies make this shift, Schibsted quickly repositioned subscriptions as an employer benefit — falling into a category like gym memberships or insurance — and reframed it as a work tool. In communicating this strategy, Schibsted engaged in three campaigns, two of which revolved around encouraging employees to “think bigger,” and, most recently, a campaign promoting Schibsted’s ability to give readers the insight they need, when they need it.

“We’re really focusing on moving it from the ‘nice to have’ category to the ‘need to have’ category for employers,” Johannessen said.

Before embarking on the customer journey, Schibsted created three business buyer personas and mapped out what the journey would look like for each of those personas. That led to two critical insights:

  1. The perceived complexity of implementing the digital subscription process was high.

  2. The clients’ incentives for starting the process of entering into an agreement are low.

To address those pain points, Johannessen said they noted the potential gains for each persona, mapped out the new B2B customer journey, and then created a new B2B team to focus on sales, marketing, engagement, and product development.

It also created a new model, called the CAN model, which helped organise efforts and define priorities. The CAN model breaks down efforts as:

  • Core: 70% of efforts are devoted to providing the best customer experience for digital readers.

  • Adjacent: 20% of efforts go to developing new additional tools related to existing products.

  • New: 10% of attention is to create entirely new niche content products relevant for the business setting.


Schibsted use the CAN model to organise and prioritise its efforts.
Schibsted use the CAN model to organise and prioritise its efforts.

Johannessen recommends publishers analyse their current B2B base to see if the potential for digitalisation is there, but it’s also important to prioritise what the goals are and what must be done first: “You can’t do everything at once.”

This case study appeared in the INMA report, The Growing Promise of B2B in Media's Reader Revenue Model.

About Paula Felps

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