Schibsted owns several of the leading media houses in Scandinavia. Yet, in a market with global giants as competitors, even the strongest news sites find it challenging to build for the future on their own. This realisation has radically changed how Schibsted Media works with product and technology.
Here is a walk-through of how we do it.
From local to joint product development
Only a few years back, Schibsted’s media houses mostly developed new products on their own. Each company had its separate technical setup with platforms and tools, which were rarely re-used in other media houses.
However, this approach is no longer sustainable if we want to offer our readers the engaging and unique news products they deserve.
Therefore, in the media division of Schibsted we now have one integrated product and technology unit serving the development needs of all the media houses. The unit consists of around 300 software engineers, product managers, user experience designers, data engineers, and other specialists.
What we want to achieve
There are three main reasons why we have chosen to move in this direction:
- It enables us to scale our product development. By bringing all the media houses on to the same technical platforms, we can focus our resources on what will have the most impact for the users in our different segments and brands.
- This also lets us innovate much faster going forward. We are building our platforms so it is easy for each media house to innovate within them and share more components and functionalities.
- All the media houses benefit from “best practice” and the work done by the other teams. For example, a tool for live reporting was developed in Bergens Tidende and will now be implemented in other media houses with very low overhead.
In short, we see the product and technology teams as enablers of great journalism. Our job is to develop products and tools enhancing the fantastic content our journalists produce and give users a sticky and rewarding experience when visiting our sites and apps.
Close collaboration with the media houses
Schibsted’s media houses are very different from each other. Some, like Aftonbladet and VG, have unique positions in our national markets with a daily reach on par with Facebook. Others, like Lindesnes and Fædrelandsvennen, serve small local communities.
Building technology platforms serving such different needs is no easy task. It includes the pain of throwing away legacy technologies and changing how we work.
The key to success is close collaboration with the media houses. We need to envision the big picture together — how we can create amazing experiences for our users.
The product and tech teams are primarily allocated to the three main business areas: editorial, advertising, and consumer business. In each of these areas we develop joint platforms and tools that will be used across all the media houses.
But within this central product and tech organisation, we also have teams dedicated to each brand, for instance Aftenposten and Svenska Dagbladet. These teams are “embedded” into the media houses and have a special responsibility to ensure the solutions fit each brand’s needs by being a bridge to the local newsroom.
One team, multiple locations
All the teams work in distributed situations. Most of our software engineers are located in Oslo, Stockholm, or Krakow. But we also have strong product and technology teams in Bergen, Stavanger, and Gdansk.
A crucial point is that everyone is part of the same team. It does not matter whether you work from Norway, Sweden, or Poland, or if you are in a central team or a brand team. We are one organisation moving in the same direction — empowering free and independent publishing to thrive, everywhere!
Another important principle is to only develop products that easily scale. One of the biggest benefits of having all our sites and apps on the same platforms is we can quickly roll out new features to all. But for that to work, all the teams must develop their products so the results can be reused easily. Our competitive landscape continues to both move faster and be more complex. To stay ahead, we need to make this shift from individual brand focus to work together in a bigger, distributed product development unit.
Knowledge sharing is — and has to be — at the core of how we work. When smart people from different cities and with diverse backgrounds sit down to solve problems together, the magic happens!
We see this way of working can be powerful. It enables each media house to benefit from the competence and experience of a development organisation much larger than what they could possibly afford on their own.
Here are a few examples that illustrate this idea:
- Content management system: All our newsrooms now use the Schibsted Media Platform for content curation and production. The tool was built with the digital journalist in mind, and the journalists love it.
- Joint design system: An exciting project is to develop a joint design system for all the news sites. It offers a set of building blocks and components the brand designers work within. The look and feel of each site will still be unique, but we avoid unnecessary redundancy in the design process.
- Machine learning. One team specialises in using machine learning to enhance the user experience for our readers, especially through personalisation. Among these projects is building a video recommendation tool based on each reader’s activities and interests. The team also develops algorithms for individual news streams. This was used in Aftenposten’s personalised front page, which recently won INMA’s “Best in Europe” award.
- User revenue suite. Several teams are working on getting all media houses on the same technology stack for consumer business/digital subscriptions. Some tools we develop ourselves, like the login solution. In other areas, we work with third parties, such as Braze for marketing automation and Zuora for subscription management.
- App for young news consumers. Many news sites struggle to reach the youngest population. With the mobile app Peil, we experiment with a radically new way of presenting news. The experiment is based on extensive research about young people’s media habits.
The goal: faster and better product innovation
I could have mentioned many more examples of how working together enables us to do more than each media house could achieve alone.
None of the three main platforms — editorial, advertising, and consumer business — are yet fully developed. A main task for the next one to two years is to continue onboarding all the media houses to our new joint technology stack.
But almost daily, we’re already seeing examples of how we are moving in the right direction. The goal is clear: We want to be able to develop and implement new digital products faster and more efficiently and leverage all of Schibsted Media’s editorial knowledge and experience across our brands and locations. And we hope to set the stage for accelerated innovation, not only in what we do together but also in each media house.