Schibsted sets the stage for faster product innovation



Through extensive collaboration, Schibsted´s media houses are building the foundation for faster and better product innovation.

Written by Morten Jacobsen CTO, Schibsted Media for International NewsMedia Association (INMA)'s Media Leaders blog to share how we work with product technology in Schibsted Media.   

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 realization has radically changed how Schibsted Media works with product and technology.

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, UX 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:

First: 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. 

Second: This also lets us innovate much faster going forward! We are building our platforms so that it is easy for each media house to innovate on top of them and to share more components and functionalities. 

Third:  All the media houses benefit from “best practice” and the work done by the other teams.  Example: A tool for live reporting was developed in Bergens Tidende - and will now be implemented also 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 that enhance 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 that serve so 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 organization 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 that the solutions fit each brand´s needs by being a bridge to the local newsroom. 

One team, multiple locations

All the teams work distributed. 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 idea 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 organization 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 that we can quickly roll out new features to all. But for that to work, all the teams must develop their products so that 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!  

Some examples

We see that this way of working can be powerful. It enables each media house to benefit from the competence and experience of a development organization much larger than what they could possibly afford on their own. 

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 specializes in using machine learning to enhance the user experience of our readers, especially through personalization. Among the projects is to build a video recommendation tool based on each readers activities and interests. The team also develops algorithms for individual news streams. This was used in Aftenposten´s personalized 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. 

Neither of the three main platforms - editorial, advertising and consumer business - are yet fully developed. A main task for the next 1-2 years is to continue to onboard all the media houses to our new joint technology stack. 

But we already see almost daily 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. 

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About Morten Jacobsen

Morten Jacobsen is CTO in Schibsted Media in Oslo, Norway.  He can be reached at morten.jacobsen@schibsted.com



Published: 8/13/2018 10:54 AM
Last updated: 8/14/2018 8:59 AM