Learning and networking: From Bergen to Stavanger, Oslo, and Stockholm

My name is Mathias Sagevik and I study for a Master’s in Laws at the University of Bergen. I am a part of Schibsted Connect 2021*, a mutual mentorship program where students are connected with employees at Schibsted. Let me tell you about my key learnings and findings so far.

For the last few months, it feels like I’ve been on a journey far and wide in the Schibsted system. It’s been a journey where I’ve learned about the inherently practical nature of business, the inner workings of one of Scandinavia’s most exciting companies, and all while creating a network along the way.

Business is not theoretical
There are many things in business that are hard to get a grip on from a theoretical viewpoint. Or, at least it makes a lot more sense when you get the chance to discuss real-world cases and stories.

In the Schibsted Connect program, among other things, I’ve learned how to structure a business deal with Disney+ and Netflix from a Business Developer in Tv.nu. I’ve learned how to do better product development by using milestones and beta-testing from a Strategic Project Manager in Schibsted Next, using real-world examples. And I’ve learned about the customer journey from a Sales Manager in Stavanger Aftenblad. How to discover the customers’ needs, tailoring the solution, and making sure the customer increases its sales.

These things are inherently practical, and learning about them through stories and discussions with professionals in Schibsted has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

The inner workings of an exciting company
Further, it’s been great to get insights into how a big and exciting company is organized. Schibsted consists of close to 50 companies in one ecosystem. How does all this fit together? How exactly can one person in one company reach out to another person in another company to do a project? How can one Schibsted company benefit from the competence and resources of another Schibsted company? How does one align the course of all the companies?

An especially exciting part of Schibsted is the Schibsted Next division, which invests in startups and scaleups. Kind of like a VC firm, but not entirely like it. How do they invest? How much do they invest? Do they participate with competence or only money? What type of companies do they invest in? How do they find companies to invest in?

Networking in an international company
While I’ve been on this learning journey, I’ve been able to network with professionals across the different Schibsted companies. A cool part of this journey has been that most of the people I’ve been talking to are based in Stockholm, Sweden, while I’m based in Bergen, Norway. The participants from Schibsted in the Connect program have been generous and welcoming and are always ready to take a meeting to discuss whatever questions I might have.

*Schibsted Connect is a mutual mentorship program where you will be connected with a Schibsted employee as your buddy. The idea is that, through meetings and activities, you will mutually share each other’s thoughts, ideas, and experiences. This is a win-win relationship. You get the chance to get inside Schibsted and build your professional network, and we have the opportunity to get your fresh eyes on things. 

Let’s connect and grow together! Click here to read more about Schibsted Connect.

Embracing digital recruitment

How we created an innovative, thorough, and precise recruitment process for our trainee program, without meeting anyone in person.

The Schibsted Trainee Program has attracted young talents from multiple countries since 1997. We receive hundreds of applicants each year, but usually, only six to eight candidates make it through the loophole. The recruitment process consists of several rounds of testing, group exercises, and interviews.

The sudden occurrence of a global pandemic created an immense task: How do we give a thorough and fair evaluation of all the candidates without meeting in person? Is it even possible?

It is not the first time Schibsted has had to deal with a disruptive change happening overnight. Like the switch from print to digital news or the dotcom bubble before it, we did not merely overcome a seemingly destructive shock – but used it to improve and grow.

For instance: Our need as an employer is to recruit top talents that are best suited for the job. We should not, and do not, care for any other characteristics. We know, however, that human biases easily skew the view of a candidate. If a candidate resembles the interviewer, research tells us they are more likely to get the job.

Can we use digital tools to minimize these biases and inconsistencies? We believe so. And we are going to show you exactly what we did. Let’s start from scratch, although the most exciting part comes later.

Selection and interviews with anonymous applications

As usual, the first step in applying for a Trainee position was the application itself, with a resume and grades. However, we did not accept any cover letters, and everyone fulfilling entry-level requirements (such as finishing a Master’s degree or similar) proceeded to the next stage.

At this point in the process, the recruiter did not know anything about the applicants. Not their name, gender, which universities they attended, or their work experience.

Next, the applicants were subjected to an online test on logical thinking. Those performing above a threshold moved on. Admittedly, there is nothing novel about this particular step.

“But wait! Does that mean grades didn’t matter?” you may ask. A B from Harvard is probably more prestigious than an A from a community college? How about someone with extremely relevant experience?”

This brings us back to the problem of human bias. As an employer, you do not actually care about a grade as a letter written on a fancy piece of paper. You care about what it tells you, and especially about the applicant’s ability to learn and logically apply new information. We believe the test we used uncovers exactly that. The initial scan of the candidates’ grades and resume was merely an entry ticket. It doesn’t matter how prestigious a school the applicant went to is – their performance does.

Then, the applicants received a video-interview with pre-recorded questions. The evaluators did not see the applicants, removing factors such as body language, appearance and gender.

We used an online escape room instead of a physical assessment center

After the interview phase, a selection of applicants was invited to a digital assessment center. This is the exciting part. In previous years, the assessment center has been a physical gathering with groups solving and presenting business cases in addition to personal interviews.

There are a ton of potential biases here. For example, there are bound to be differences in the candidates’ knowledge of the industry in which the business case is set. Just by chance, some candidates might be able to infer several useful analyses by heart, while others have to create arguments on the fly. This does not only affect the outcome but the group dynamics as well.

Our new solution was a digital, online escape room game. While on a video conference, groups of four played an online game much like an escape room. They had to complete several tasks, which were only achieved by working together. Each participant had different parts of the overall clues and solutions. Observers evaluated their team dynamic and performance.

Such a tool removes the problem of prerequisite knowledge and creates a level playing field. Observers and candidates alike have stated how much they liked this way of assessment.

Schibsted is committed to a diverse workforce and an unbiased recruitment process. It would be foolish to believe we are perfect in every area, but we believe this digital transformation has sent us lightyears forward on the path to true unbiasedness. We continue to strive towards this goal.

A selected group of candidates have been invited to a final digital interview. We wish them the best of luck!

Click here to read more about the Schibsted trainee program.

Schibsted trainees, started in 2020

Schibsted trainees, started in 2019


Schibsted – a perfect match for their thesis

How did two Industrial Statistics master students from Umeå University in Sweden experience writing their master thesis at Schibsted during the spring of 2020?

Are you a student with your master thesis ahead of you, or are you simply looking for an exciting opportunity to get professional development? Here’s your chance to be inspired by Alexandra Hägg and Amanda Flöjs, two master students in Industrial Statistics at Umeå University, who wrote their master thesis at Schibsted during the spring of 2020.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, not only did their project have the potential to create a lot of value for Schibsted and a Swedish newspaper within Schibsted, it also turned out to be a great personal experience and professional opportunity for the two students.

When Alexandra and Amanda initially started discussing what kind of thesis they wanted to write, they concluded to do a project within data (since their master focused on data analysis and statistical modelling) with the customer in focus. Schibsted, with its incredible amount of data and customers, was rapidly considered a perfect match.
They were given the chance of working with Schibsted’s Machine Learning team in collaboration with a Swedish newspaper within Schibsted. The topic of the thesis was to try to develop a statistical model to learn more about the newspaper’s digital subscription service churn. In other words, by using predictive models they tried to identify users’ behavior patterns that drive them to unsubscribe.

After several weeks in the Stockholm office and a couple of weeks of remote working (due to the pandemic), they came up with some interesting conclusions. With the help of statistical models their work showed that it is possible to predict which users are in the risk zone of ending their subscription. However, it is difficult for the model to generalize a specific behavioral pattern for the “active subscribers” and those who choose to unsubscribe.
“As long as the model is trying to predict human behavior, it will always be difficult,” Alexandra comments.

They also saw that the variables describing the frequency of use (i.e. how often a user uses the service) had more validity than variables describing the user’s activity in volume (i.e. how many articles a user reads). These are all very useful insights for the Swedish newspaper.

In addition to the results of the thesis results, the experience was fulfilling in several ways. We asked Alexandra and Amanda about their time in Schibsted:

What has it been like writing your master thesis at Schibsted?
Amanda: ”It has been extremely fun and developing. We felt welcome since day one, and we are so thankful to our supervisor who supported us all the way.”
Alexandra: ”I totally agree with Amanda. In addition, we worked with an exciting project that made the weeks go so fast.”

What did a “normal” working day look like for you?
Alexandra: The first six weeks we were in Schibsted’s Stockholm office, where we started each morning with a cup of coffee to go through the TODO’s. Then we often had a sync with either Patrik, our supervisor at the university or someone else at Schibsted. The rest of the days was all about modeling, analyzing and drinking loads of coffee. When we moved home due to the corona pandemic, the days looked very much the same. The only difference was that it took place in either Amanda’s or my apartment instead.

How has the corona pandemic affected your work?
Alexandra: After six weeks, the corona pandemic forced the whole Machine Learning team to work from home. It definitely affected us and our way of working together with them. However, working remotely and running meetings via video calls has gone surprisingly smooth.
Amanda: The result of our thesis was not that much affected by the pandemic. However, the pandemic has delayed the testing of our model in the business.

What was it like collaborating with your supervisor?
Amanda: Our awesome supervisor, Patrik Trelsmo is part of the Machine Learning team. We had regular meetings every week where we discussed and got help to sort out all our thoughts around the project and how to approach different problems. In addition to that, Patrik was always available for spontaneous questions or to support us in programming questions.
Alexandra: Yes, and I would also like to emphasize that everyone in the Machine Learning team has been very supportive and helpful.

Do you have any advice for students with a master’s thesis ahead of them?
Amanda: When it comes to choosing your project and company, my best advice is to choose the option that has a well-defined project and where you will have a committed supervisor who knows that he or she will have time for you.
Alexandra: I couldn’t agree more. I also advise you to dare to trust your university knowledge and not to be afraid to ask if there is something you do not understand!

What is your next adventure?
Alexandra: I will start as a Schibsted trainee in August and my first placement will be at Aftenposten in Oslo
Amanda: And I will also be a part of a Trainee program at SEB.

Thank you so much for the amazing work you have done. We wish you the best of luck!

Meet more of our people and read more Schibsted stories in Schibsted Future Report


Blocket – an idea that started a movement

A digitized bullet board changed our shopping habits for ever – and started a movement for a more sustainable society. Today Blocket has five million visits every week and sister sites all over the world.

1996. Henrik Nordström, born and raised in the small town of Fjälkinge, Skåne, stands in front of the bulletin board in the local ICA grocery store. He finds himself drawn to the small notes pinned up on the board. This is where people from all over town try to advertise things they no longer use. They write a description on a piece of paper, rip it off and pin it up on the bulletin board and hope for by-passers to see it. But this is a rather tedious process, in fact unnecessarily so. This is where Henrik is hit by an idea – the bulletin board should be digitized!

But the road between the physical and the digital world was longer in those days. This was two years before Google’s search engine was developed, Ebay had just launched in a small scale the year before. The Swedish government was about to be digitized and Facebook wasn’t even thought of. The few people who used Internet at the time connected via modem and broadband was not invented yet. Html, the language used to construct websites, was only a few years old and many thought Internet was just a passing trend. But some people believed in the new technology, and that it was going to do great things and change lives. Henrik Nordström was one of those.Quickly after getting the idea of a digitized bulletin board Henrik started coding and only a few weeks later he launched the first version of Blocket.se. The services was solely aimed for people in the Skåne area. The layout of the site was striped to look like the inside of a notebook.

Blocket’s concept is spread all over the world

At the end of 1997 Blocket was being used by Swedes all around the country. Six years later, 2003, Schibsted acquired the company.
Since then, Blocket has grown immensely. At the year of its launch there were two employees and a revenue of 34 million kronor. By 2018 revenues had increased to 988 million and almost 250 employees. Different versions of Blocket are now available in a lot of countries and 8 out of 10 Swedes has bought or sold something at Blocket in Sweden. Amongst families with children, more than 90 percent has used Blocket. On an average week there are five million visitors on site.

Basically every Swede knows about Blocket (98 percent) and few Swedish sites have a bigger impact. On an average day you can browse through 600 000 ads. 10 percent of these ads are marked sold within an hour, 25 percent within a day and 60 percent within a week. The combined worth of all things for sale at Blocket during 2018 was 714 million kronor which corresponds to about 15 percent of Sweden’s GDP. Progress has been fast. Blocket has grown and the interest for secondhand trade has increased rapidly.

Blocket was pioneering at its time and has made imprints on several countries, but is more important now than ever before. We need to adapt to a more sustainable culture of consumption. What Henrik Nordström founded was not only a marketplace on the Internet, it was something bigger.
Above all, it is the financial incentives that has pushed the Swedes to buy and sell secondhand, but lately there is a new factor that has grown in importance – the environment. A survey by Ipsos in 2009 showed that 24 percent of all Swedes think that one of the reasons to buy and sell used things is to be environmentally friendly. Five years later that number had increased to 42 percent. More than every other participant also said that their interest to buy secondhand had increased the last three years. Two out of three Swedes state that they sell things they don’t use mostly because they want them to be recycled. These are clear signs of people wanting to distance themselves from overconsumption.

Circular economy has gained ground

“More and more people are discovering how easy it is to buy and sell used objects and more and more people see the value in buying things that are recycled and that lasts over a long period of time,” says Pernilla Nissler, CEO at Blocket.
One factor that has been pushing the secondhand trend is the fact that climate change and the issues that follows have shown that the current economic culture, in which we constantly buy and produce new things, is unsustainable. Therefore circular economy has gained ground. The idea behind is to use resources in the best possible way, instead of wasting them.
“We have grown accustomed to buying new things. Take Christmas shopping for example, where our consumption hits new records every year. We must change our habits and the way we look at secondhand trade and ownership. Instead of being the final destination for our things we must start viewing ourselves as part of a cycle,” says Pernilla Nissler.
Hopefully this green trend will become even stronger within future generations. The Swedes’ engagement in secondhand trade has already shown results. Every year, we prevent 0.8 million tonnes of GHG emissions because of second-hand trading via Blocket. That effect is as if all the traffic in Stockholm would be at a standstill for a year.

Blocket as a company does its utmost to be environmentally aware and to put the climate first. This involves environment policies, climate compensation and establishing demands towards suppliers, but also a consistency when developing new services. This fall Blocket will launch a new site to get the already many customers to continue to buy and sell used, but also to get new customers to discover the benefits of recycling.
“It has been a lot of hard work. Our 250 employees never stop improving our product, working every day to make the secondhand trade as easy, effective and safe as possible, so that more people can discover the benefits of recycling. It has been an amazing ride for Blocket, and we have only just begun”, says Pernilla Nissler.

Some Blocket numbers

23 – that is how many years Blocket has existed, founded in 1996.
5 millions – the amount of weekly visitors.
98 – the percentage of the Swedish population that knows of Blocket.
1/4 of everything that is advertised on Blocket is sold within a day.
250 – employees at Blocket.
714 billion kronor – the total worth of alla ads on Blocket during 2018.
0,8 million – the amount of GHG emissions Sweden prevents by shopping second-hand at Blocket.

Meet more of our people and read more Schibsted stories in Schibsted Future Report

Bringing news into the public space

Camilla Brække is bringing Verdens Gang out in the public space, working with voice and visuals.

What if you could get news from VG on screens in the subway or in the bus stand? Camilla Brække is head of a project for sound and visuals that’s looking into how to make VG more present in the public space. But it all started indoors.
“We were eager to provide news for Google Home Assistant, but soon realized that the audience is still very small in Norway. That’s when we changed focus and started working on a product that works on several platforms,” says Camilla.

Basically, her team is making daily video news broadcasts in a simple format that can be produced by just one person. There’s a camera at the VG news desk and a VJ can just start recording at any time.
The content has also changed as the project has moved forward. In the beginning they focused a lot on always being first to report, but then ended up with a lot of text on still pictures. Now they’re trying to simplify angles and messages to adapt to the format and the concept.
“We have a new type of infographic that is much more to the point. If we want to catch people’s attention out in the city, we need to be very direct,” Camilla explains.

At the moment the team is trying out the product on VG’s start page and soon it will be on Snapchat. But the overall goal is to move out into the city. When becoming more and more digital, newspapers like VG have lost presence outdoors, losing attention for their brands. This could now be about to change, with VG’s news displayed at train stations, airports and out in the city.
Camilla has enjoyed how the project has developed – from starting out with this one idea of content for Google Home to becoming something completely different and larger. “It is also very fun to focus on the visuals – and not least to be allowed to be a bit playful.”

Meet more of our people and read more Schibsted stories in Schibsted Future Report