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How Schibsted is part of democratising news media for children

When working in tech, understanding the user is key to reaching success with a product. Lena Beate Hamborg Pedersen and her product team therefore spend hands on quality time in Norwegian primary schools, to pinpoint the needs of their main users – children between the ages of nine and twelve. 

About a decade ago, Norwegian Aftenposten launched a printed newspaper aimed towards children between the ages of nine to twelve. The goal was to help enlighten the younger generation in worldly news on a level suited for them. Right off the bat, Aftenposten Jr was a success, both among parents, but also among teachers.

“Many teachers started using Aftenposten Jr in their classrooms, but at some schools they only had access to maybe one printed copy per class. We acknowledged this and launched a digital version of the newspaper – Aftenposten Jr Skole – just over one year ago, to give all students equal accessibility,” Lena Beate Hamborg Pedersen, Product Manager at Schibsted says.

For every student

Accessibility has continued being the foundation of how Lena Beate’s team work. During the digitisation of the newspaper, many hours have been put in to make the articles accessible for every single student. And when visiting the schools for UX tests with both teachers and students, accessibility is one of the features getting praised.

“The product is optimised so visually impaired students can use screen readers on their own devices to have all text on the website read out. Students who struggle with reading due to dyslexia, attention disorders or bilingualism can use our text to speech function where a robotic voice that is a clone of a real person’s voice reads the news articles to the students. We also transcribe every episode of our news podcast so hearing impaired students still can take part. To be inclusive and offer accessibility to every student is very important to us,” Lena Beate says.

Where help is needed

Lena Beate’s team consists of six people. They are all passionate about understanding pain points amongst their users, and through those develop simple but efficient solutions. One pain point that arose earlier in 2022 was directly connected to the war in Ukraine. Many Ukrainians fled to safety in Norway, and needed to keep up with news updates. The product team therefore quickly developed a translation feature to make the whole platform accessible in Ukrainian.

“We are experimenting with the different languages we offer, so we can reach students that might speak a different language than Norwegian at home. We want news media to be easily accessible for everyone. Understanding what happens in society is crucial for democracy,” Lena Beate says.

This translation tool has now sparked an interest amongst other news platforms within the Schibsted concern, that are currently investigating how it best can be used to translate both internal and external communications.

Found her dream job

Lena Beate Hamborg Pedersen started working at Schibsted just when Aftenposten Jr Skole started their digital journey. For her, the position has been a dream come true.

“I remember reading the ad and feeling it described my dream job. I had been working with product development and digital products for children since 2012, and also had a master in reading comprehension. Then I knew little about Schibsted, but from the start I have been met with such enthusiasm. I had a lot of questions in the beginning to get started with the digitisation and new features for Aftenposten Jr Skole, and wherever I turned there was someone happy to help. This helping and excited culture rubs off, and now I find myself taking time from my actual work tasks to help coworkers from any company within Schibsted forward. We really live up to our motto to empower people in their daily lives, both internally and externally,” Lena Beate Hamborg Pedersen says.