The year was characterized by increased and more widespread use of smart phones and tablet computers. Our websites have seen an impressive growth in traffic volumes for their mobile services, and for our media houses it is positive to see that VG and Aftonbladet are well ahead in this area. We want to become even better at mobile services in all areas; that is to say news, advertising formats and classified services. A growing number of our readers and users want to engage with us via their mobile phones – and we must make sure that we take best possible advantage of this trend.
There were other trends that also came to the fore in 2011. Digital revenues continued to rise. The media houses witnessed the continued structural trend of declining circulation figures for print. The uncertainty in the global economy curbed development of our key advertising markets.
Our response to these challenges is to continue our commitment to quality content combined with close attention to costs and collaboration across the group wherever it is natural to do so. The establishment of Schibsted Norge, where we gathered VG, Media Norge and Schibsted Forlag, will be an important contribution to this end. We believe that closer collaboration will strengthen these companies in a period of radical change in our industry – and at a faster rate than ever before.
Quality journalism cannot be financed by advertising revenues alone; to be able to continue providing valuable journalism in the future, we must expand our revenue base by finding ways of also charging users for news on our digital platforms. The development of models to this end has high priority at Schibsted. One step in our work on making users' digital everyday life as simple as possible is the creation of a common payment solution for all of Schibsted's products and services. Whether they want to place an advertisement on Finn.no or gain access to premium content in Aftonbladet, we want to make it as easy as possible for our readers and customers by creating one common system for logging in and performing payment transactions. We have therefore established Schibsted Payment. This is one of several examples where collaboration across the group will contribute to making us stronger together.
In 2011 Schibsted Classified Media intensified its work on establishing the Blocket model in other countries. Our traditional market leaders, such as Finn, Blocket and Leboncoin, continue to experience steady growth, and we now see that several of the launches we undertook in recent years are now really gaining momentum. Our investments in Italy and Austria are proof of this; they made profits in the fourth quarter of 2011, and they open 2012 as the leading players in their markets. We are optimistic that other countries will soon follow suit.
Successes like these confirm our belief that this is an area in which we excel and in which we have the capacity to take leading positions. Our modern, digital marketplaces make everyday life easier for people and lend themselves to increased reuse. We know that this is valued. We have therefore set ourselves the goal of becoming a worldwide leader in online classifieds in the course of the next three to five years. This is a demanding goal to achieve, but I am convinced that we have what it takes to succeed in the form of good products and our extremely high level of employee competence.
We are pleased to note that the heavy traffic volumes on our websites are also providing a valuable boost to our portfolio of new and promising growth companies such as our consumer services Prisjakt and Let’sDeal. Services like these are growing in terms of both sales and importance. In Sweden the growth companies are gathered under Schibsted Tillväxtmedier, while in Norway they are gathered under Norge Schibsted Vekst. This is yet another example of intra-group collaboration making us stronger.
Vision and values
In 2011 the work on Schibsted’s new vision was completed. This vision will serve as a guide and remind us of what we want to accomplish in the years ahead. Throughout our long and proud history we have been driven by an urge to challenge the established, to think in new directions and to do so swiftly and effectively. We want to play a defining role in creating our own future. We want to be "Shaping the media of tomorrow. Today." This is our vision, and it is something we will always aim for.
The way in which we are perceived by the society in which we operate is influenced by the way we present and conduct ourselves. This will in turn have a bearing on our results and on whether or not we achieve our goals. Schibsted's core values are:
We have Integrity. We are Innovative. We are a Team. We are here to Win.
I am proud of the work that has been accomplished, and am convinced that our vision, mission and values will provide us with the right guidelines in the time ahead.
In a knowledge enterprise like Schibsted Media Group, our people represent our most important resource. This may be a cliché, but it is nonetheless true, and it was borne out by the events that unfolded in the aftermath of the horrifying terrorist attacks on Oslo and Utøya Island on 22 July. Our people in VG, Aftenposten, Finn and Schibsted ASA had to evacuate their buildings. Despite this, VG and Aftenposten managed to sustain a high quality in their print and online news coverage during those dramatic hours and days. Despite numerous challenges, our social mission was fulfilled in the best possible way.
All our people who were involved made extraordinary efforts when Oslo was struck by terrorism. The concern and kindness we were shown by other parts of the group outside Norway served as a reminder of the solidarity that is emerging within Schibsted Media Group. We are grateful that none of our colleagues came to physical harm, but we share the grief and horror of the numerous people who were directly or indirectly affected. These atrocities will leave their mark on Norwegian society for a long time to come.
Rapid technological changes have placed the media industry in a far-reaching and demanding phase of reorganization. Yes, the print circulations figures are declining, but with the new digital platforms we are reaching more readers and users than ever before. Change should not, therefore, be something to be regarded with fear. With assertive thinking and high-level competence, we now have a unique opportunity to have a say in shaping the media of tomorrow. Today.
Rolv Erik Ryssdal
President and CEO