Annual report 2015

Building for digital growth

Schibsted sees many exciting opportunities in the digital transformation, and in 2015 we placed ourselves in a better position to take full advantage of them.

Schibsted delivered good results in 2015. In Europe, our popular marketplaces hold leading positions in countries like Norway, Sweden, France, Ireland, Spain, Austria and Italy. These are all doing well, in particular our site Leboncoin in France. We also continued our work on developing and further consolidating the positions of many of our key marketplaces. I'd like to mention Spain in particular, where we have many leading sites, such as Vibbo (previously Segundamano), Milanuncios, Infojobs, Coches and Fotocasa. We did a lot of good work on these sites during 2015, and the results are already beginning to show. At the same time, the macro-economic climate in Spain has picked up, and we see Spain as a key country for future growth.

For the media houses, it is a remarkable achievement that Aftonbladet now reaches more than 3.5 million readers (around half the population) in Sweden every day. Aftonbladet’s daily digital reach is equal to that for Facebook, which is unique for a media house. In Norway, VG also enjoys a strong digital position with an extremely impressive reach of 2.3 million readers daily. Both these single-copy sales papers have experienced a brutal decline in print circulation in recent years, yet at the same time have increased their digital reach in a very impressive way. For the subscription papers, we see that consumer sales are holding up well, driven by popular, digital offerings. 

As expected, the trend of declining print advertising revenues continued for all our media houses. We also experienced a decline in digital display advertising in Norway. Our aim is to improve this by launching new and better digital advertising products and to continue to improve our offerings to our readers. I am pleased to note that 2015 was of the best years ever in terms of the journalistic quality of our media houses, who continue to win prestigious prizes both nationally and internationally. I am truly impressed with all the strong stories we uncover. We set the agenda and keep our readers well informed. 

We've been working very hard for several years now on building the digital media houses of the future. We will continue to do so, at the same time as we acknowledge the difficulty of the task and the impacts of declining revenues, downsizing and uncertainty on our employees. 

I view the introduction of the B-share as a key event in our history and an important tool for capturing growth opportunities that will benefit our Group tremendously as we continue our journey towards the next level. Therefore, an important event for us in 2015 was the successful issuance of B-shares resulting in gross proceeds for the Group of NOK 2,656 million. The proceeds will be used to strengthen our overall strategy: to continue to pursue growth in online classifieds, develop world-class digital media houses, and to build logged-in ecosystems to accelerate growth. In addition to fueling organic growth, this also gives us the financial muscle to pursue strategic acquisitions, especially within the online classifieds segment. We have already reached an agreement to buy 80 percent of the Swedish real estate portal Hemnet for  NOK 1.5 billion, and we expect the competition authorities to approve the acquisition during the first half of 2016.

Every day, we see how the ongoing digital revolution is rapidly changing the world around us. It is changing people’s use of media and digital services faster than most could predict. In order for us to stay relevant to our users, we have to be at the forefront and deliver excellent services.

In 2015, we therefore continued our work on building a world-class product and technology organization that has started to deliver excellent digital products, systems and solutions in collaboration with local teams. We built a new, state-of-the-art media platform for our media houses. The platform is a strategically important tool for understanding our readers and their behavior in order to provide even better digital journalism and to personalize user experience. It was first implemented in Svenska Dagbladet in the spring of 2015. 

We are also focusing strongly on developing new, digital ad products for our advertisers. We launched a new geotargeting product in Norway and a self-service product in Leboncoin – a powerful tool that allows small and medium advertisers to create their own text ads in order to target users based on location and interests. 

When things are changing so quickly, it is only natural that we change with them so that we are equipped to seize the opportunities that arise. We have therefore implemented a new organizational structure which we believe will be better suited to rapidly implementing new technology and products that give our users fantastic digital and personalized experiences in their preferred formats. 

With our new organization, our strong common product and tech organizations will enable a global perspective on all new development and innovation, which in turn will mean faster decisions and time to market. The new organization will enforce our mission of empowering people with products and services that are great and relevant. 

Moving forward, we will strengthen Schibsted’s position as a global, user-centric company made up of strong national digital ecosystems, centred on data linked to user identity. We will pursue our strategic goals with full force:

  • Be a global leader in classifieds
  • Build world-class digital media houses
  • Create smart new services for everyday living

We have a strong foundation to build on. Our culture is defined by highly motivated people who are committed to building and creating something new. We have both disrupted and reinvented ourselves before; now we must do it again, only this time more fundamentally than ever before. With our leading positions, strong brands, and competent people, I am optimistic that we will succeed in reaching our goals.

 

Rolv Erik Ryssdal

CEO Schibsted Media House

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