Interview WebTomorrow: Fredric Karén – How a media group became a data and technology driven media company


Meet Fredric Karén: the editor in chief who turned the Scandinavian Media Group Schibsted into a data & technlogy driven media company. We interviewed Frederic about the change project, new advertising possibilities and why there are so many developers in a media company.


At WebTomorrow, Frederic will be sharing even more insights from this unique Swedish case. But first things first, let`s see what we can already learn from this inspiring man.


You`ve accomplished a major turnaround for Schibstead. You hired developers etc. Which stages did you have to go through?


Fredric: “I wouldn´t exactly call it a turnaround, Schibsted has been successful for many years, with a profit margin of up to 12%. To me, it`s a strategic decision. We simply asked ourselves: do we see our company`s future as a content platform, or do we think of ourselves as a content provider instead? Or are we supposed to be both? According to our analysis, we need to invest heavily in tech and development in order to be a key player in the digital economy. More importantly, we need to be able to control our own business (ads, data, journalism).


That`s why two years ago, we decided to hire 300 new developers, and set up tech hubs in Stockholm, Oslo, London and Barcelona. This way, we could immediately start building three platforms from which we can conduct our operations: media, classifieds and ads. Our media platform has been up and running for quite some time, and is currently being used at Svenska Dagbladet. Next year, the other companies of this group will start to implement our platform too.”


What kind of disruptive advertising models have you introduced so far?


Fredric: “Aside from banners and pre-roll ads on web tv, we have also been working with a lot of branded content and native advertising, both online and print. So far, we have seen very good results: we increased our online ad revenue by 26%, which is mainly the result of new ad formats.“


How are advertisers reacting to this?


Fredric: “Very positive, as have been getting good results too. The ad department and news room are currently working closely together to develop new formats and meet ad clients.”


You probably made the market follow the Schibstead model? How do you now stay ahead of competition?


Fredric: “We know that we constantly need to be one step ahead of the game. And Schibsted is no longer what it once was ten years ago. Today, it´s much more tech and business-driven, and more professional in many ways. Besides focusing on collaborations within the group – in which we try to drive traffic to each other`s sites, as to keep the visitor in our own ecosystem – we also work with lots of employer branding content. This way, we will manage to attract the right people, whilst also continuing to develop our staff and grow their skills.”


As an editor in chief, what does an “ordinary” day at the office looks like?


Fredric: “It looks like a lot of meetings with the managing group :-). Other than that, I try to spend as much time as I can in the news room. My desk is next to the news desk, and I love the energy you get from a group of excited, passionate people. But my main goal is to let everybody understand that being a digital newsroom doesn´t equal being a news production company that brings lousy news stories. This year Svenska Dagbladet won the award for Best newsroom of the year and best scoop of the year, which I am very proud of.”