What I’ve learnt from the media industry

I’ve spent two years working for Schibsted, a European media group. Upon leaving the company I’ve tried to summarise my learnings as an employee.

  1. Media will prosper: The web has enabled us all to become media producers. That’s fun! The big question is how to capitalise on heaploads of people who are actually sharing their insight through the channels offered by interactive web sites, blogs, Twitter, YouTube, chat clients, etc. One day someone will understand how to make money on online news. That’ll probably improve the quality of the journalism as well as serving shareowners with higher value and customers with better user experiences. I’ve no clue on how it will become reality, but I’m looking forward to it.
  2. Respect to everyone making profit: Business is about creating value for your customers and shareholders when it’s a public company. That’s actually quite hard. Thus, when the advertisement market plummeted for many of our companies during second half of 2008, crucial veins of income dissappeared. Then, what do you do if you’re in charge of a company? You’ll have to cut costs. People tend to be the largest post on the budget. I was downsized (together with 25 percent of the head office’s staff) and it does make sense.
  3. Diversification is king: Schibsted has survived the economic turmoil after Lehman Brothers hit the ground in September 2008. This is much thanks to Kjell Aamot, the visionary CEO of Schibsted, who acquired a large, online classified company (previously knowns as ‘Trader’, now Schibsted Classified Media). The steady incomes from the classified business made us capable of leaning on this revenue stream when incomes from printed and online news shrinked dramatically.
  4. Knowledge work requires long term perspective: I’ve been part of a company where its primary asset is its employees’ ability to create ideas that they transform into viable, commercial initiatives. These will next need to trigger incomes for the company. When one business model dissapears (advertisement incomes steadily pouring in) and new ones are still at the stage of being invented, there is logically a stark contrast between income and costs. Nevertheless, it is necessary to invest over time in knowledge workers in order to make them prosper.
  5. Organisational transparency requires courage: In 2008 Schibsted managed to launch an intranet that was available across the group. Even though it’s still in its moulding pot, it’s steadily growing its traffic and unique visitors. However, my impression is that a lot of people find it tiring to share knowledge outside their own cubicles because it requires an extra effort that it is hard to gras p if will be reciprocated soon, later or never. Thus, high ranking leaders must repeatedly drive forward the value of sharing, involving ‘strangers’ and building upon each other.
  6. Feedback is underestimated: My own company is not good enough at providing its employees with systematic, constructive feedback. Even though several segments of leaders in our company has carried out 360-degree feedback processes, employee surveys tend to highlight the need for leaders to acknowledge its employees. Of course there are exceptions (both companies and individuals). But why on earth can’t our business get a grip on the crucial, motivating power of continuous feedback to people. It’s all about being valued and developed.
  7. Change is good: Sudden changes can help one prioritise and discover until then hidden possibilities. The two years I’ve spent at the company has been a constant flux of work tasks: designing a performance management system for young professionals, rolling out a 360-degree feedback process for executives, developing leadership training programmes for executives, implementing learning initiatives across corporate and national cultures, and implementing arenas for knowledge sharing across companies within the group. It’s been a joyride – and at times quite demanding.

That’s some of my reflections. I guess more will be drippling ino my head the next few months.

When did you last reflect upon your own job and what you get out of it?

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What I’ve learnt from the media industry

4 thoughts on “What I’ve learnt from the media industry

  1. Very interesting, Vegard. You seems to follow Mahatma Gandi’s words: “You have to be the change you want to see in the world” by sharing so generously of your insight! It was fun working with you in Schibsted!

  2. Thanks! It’s been cool teaming up with you, Sigurd. I’ll continue unleashing the Gandhi in me. ;-) We’ll meet again, for sure.

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