This article was published in Aftenposten on Wednesday 24 February 2016 under the heading "Urges common front against Facebook and Google".
Ole Jacob Sunde is board chair of one of Norway's largest media groups, Schibsted, which owns Aftenposten, VG and Finn.no among others. He also heads the Tinius Trust, which owns more than a quarter of Schibsted and whose mandate is to guarantee the freedom of the press within the Group.
"Our common battle against foreign companies is far tougher than the competitive situation inside Norway," says Sunde.
Previously, Norwegian media houses competed for Norwegian companies' advertising spends. Then Facebook and Google came along offering cheaper and more attractive advertising products, and a growing proportion of the Norwegian advertising market worth around NOK 20 billion is now falling into the hands of global media giants. The media agency iProspect estimates that Google and Facebook will achieve sales worth around NOK 3.8 billion in Norway in 2016. Sunde's plan is to turn that cash flow around.
"We need to set up the technological infrastructure to do this. Schibsted has many hundred technologists working on this, but it will take more than technology. We must cooperate with other media houses, the authorities, our users and advertisers," says Sunde.”
More personal media
This is how Sunde envisages such cooperation:
Norwegian media ought to explore ways of cooperating on content production and distribution.
The media houses must consider sharing user data with each other with a view to developing more attractive advertising products and thereby reclaiming some of the money that is currently being lost to Google and Facebook.
The technological infrastructure that makes this possible must comply with Norwegian tax and privacy protection laws.
Alongside cooperation between media houses, there is also the possibility to make far more personalised websites that are adapted to individual users.
"For example, this could mean user avoid being shown articles they have already read when they log into Aftenposten.no. Some stories could go far more in-depth because each article could consist of material that has been produced across Norwegian media houses," says Sunde.
It is too early to say how revenues would be divided among Norwegian media houses that collaborated on distribution of content.
Sunde considers it particularly important to get NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) on board. The government-owned broadcaster's content and user data is invaluable for commercial media actors.
"I find it a paradox that NRK uploads thousands of articles to Facebook but none to VG or Aftenposten. NRK is giving away data to Facebook and helping them to attract Norwegian users; the result of this is that advertising revenues are disappearing out of the country. In my opinion, NRK's content must be accessible to all Norwegian media," says Sunde.
Initially, this development aims to connect Schibsted's own media houses and marketplaces together, such as Aftenposten, VG,Bergens Tidende, Aftenbladet, Fædrelandsvennen and Finn.no. This work is already well under way, and solutions will be rolled out gradually. The next step will be to give other Norwegian media access to that same technology.
Facebook is not the future
Although Google and Facebook are effective channels for distributing content today, Sunde does not see them as the solution for Norwegian media houses
"They lose both revenues and a lot of their freedom. As a durable solution, that would have major implications for individual companies," says Sunde.
Although he believes that most media houses realize this, the tough economic situation makes the American offerings look attractive.
"We choose to say no and develop an alternative. We have the financial means and technical expertise to find our own solutions. Also, I consider it a civic responsibility to create a more secure economic basis for the Norwegian media houses of the future ," says Sunde.