Media companies should not be timid about taking on ambitious transformations, Schibsted Media Group CEO Kristin Skogen Lund told INMA World Congress of News Media delegates Thursday in New York.
Lund herself is in the midst of several transformations. While shifting into a relatively new role as CEO of the Norwegian media group, she is working to re-invigorate the company in a challenged news publishing sector while spinning off the company’s fast-growing international online classified advertising operation, Adevinta.
“You have to dare to be ambitious enough,” Lund said, reciting key advice she has been given in the past and that she continues to follow and share with others.
After outlining the origins of Schibsted’s online ads business, Lund added: “It’s important to realise that despite this fantastic situation we are in now, the start of Adevinta was really humble. It started as an internal initiative from the Aftenposten group in the time right after the dot-com crash (late 1990s). At the time, Schibsted ... started selling ads for nickels and dimes on the Internet. I can assure you, even though that seems like an obvious strategy today, it was controversial at the time. I think Adevinta can serve as inspiration for what’s possible if you dare to disrupt yourself.”
Lund shared two lessons from the experience that she thinks can apply to publishers worldwide:
- “You have to be able to distinguish what is a passing storm and what is fundamental climate change. We have a tendency to act upon the storm because that’s what we see and what we feel. But you really need to understand that it’s the long-term digital trend that you have to act upon. I would say we have lots of bad weather and climate change going on here now.”
- “Lesson two is that you have to act upon that fundamental change before it is obvious. Because when it’s obvious and when it’s uncontroversial, then it’s too late. Someone will have taken that position.” This is true despite the fact that acting early is controversial, more difficult, and less profitable in the beginning.
Lund described the CAN (core, adjacent, new) financial model she has introduced at Schibsted — gaining 70% of revenue from core activities, growing 20% from adjacent operations, and then developing the final 10% from new stuff that involves re-thinking the business.
“We also try to make this model work all the way through the company because I believe that innovation is not something you do in one department,” she said. “It’s something the whole company needs to be in charge of, and they need to be empowered to contribute to this innovation journey.”
Looking ahead, Lund identified the next top challenge for Schibsted: “The main trend right now is that everything we do is going to be data-driven, and we are all going to be platform companies. So our ability to gather, structure, and apply data is going to be absolutely crucial to our future success. Our consumers will demand from us that we can personalise a lot more, that we can make our content relevant to all types of situations. And we also need to be much more data-driven in how we make our decisions, how we develop products, and how we edit. Even despite all our resources, we are really far away from being excellent at this. So we have a lot of work.”