During a session at Nordic Media Days in Bergen in May, Petra Wikström didn’t expect too many people to show up to hear her talk about EU’s efforts to regulate the global tech giants. She was wrong.
The room was soon crowded and people were sitting on the floor. Even Schibsted’s CEO had to squeeze her way into the room.
EU regulations affect Schibsted
During 40 minutes, Petra showcased how Schibsted proactively works with lobbying and public policy. She gave an impressive cut-the-crap introduction to the many different EU regulations that influence the work of both media companies and global tech giants:
- Digital Markets Act – with regulation for digital gatekeepers, transparency for ad networks, collection of data, etc.
- Digital Services Act – with content regulations for online platforms like Facebook and others.
- The Copyright Directive – including compensation for publishers when media content is linked to in search results
- European Media Freedom Act – a new regulation currently worked on that among other things will require online platforms to alert media organisations ahead if content is to be taken down
- AI Act – another regulation currently being negotiated which will regulate responsible use of Artificial Intelligence.
For all these regulations, Schibsted has been proactive in meeting with politicians and EU bureaucrats. With 20 years experience working with the EU, Petra is a leading expert on EU in the Nordic media and marketplaces industries and a natural keynote speaker on the topic. She currently travels every month to meet face to face with politicians and EU staff on behalf of Schibsted.
Schibsted is listened to
But why do we do this? Does it even matter when a company like Schibsted tries to influence the top bureaucrats and politicians in Brussels?
“Yes, it matters!,” says Petra. “We are definitely listened to. For the regulators in Brussels we are a very interesting company, as a technology-optimistic company with all our platforms and diverse products. We are not only a media group, but also have big online marketplaces in different countries. In addition we are listened to because of the way we work when trying to influence.”
So how does Schibsted work with the EU? What are the tricks to influence a huge multinational organisation like that?
Successful lobbying requires a clear position
We asked Petra to take us on a behind-the-scenes tour in Schibsted’s Public Policy team.
“Effective lobbying always starts with knowing what you want to achieve. You must have a position. So we study what regulations might have an impact on Schibsted. This includes talking to our internal experts on the subject.We then formulate a position paper, detailing our view of the regulations and what we would like to change.”
When the position paper has been approved, the meetings start. These can be with many different stakeholders:
- Politicians and public officials in the Nordic countries, especially in Sweden and Finland as these two countries are members of the EU and the team has good contacts in these countries.
- Public officials in the EU Commission, primarily those working on the specific proposal.
- Elected members of the European parliament
- Other stakeholders, such as media business associations and other companies similar to Schibsted, to align our positions.
Getting in early
Petra explains that Schibsted works with lobbying in a different way than most other media companies.
“We try to get in as early as possible in the process, even before the planned regulations have been written. And we do not just say no to the proposals, but rather submit concrete proposals for changes. In that way we are perceived as a constructive player worth listening to.”
So far, the team has put the biggest effort into the Digital Markets Act:
“In this case we met with the EU bureaucrats well before the act was written. In meetings we told them what would be important for a company like Schibsted to have included in the act, such as limitations on data the tech giants can collect, transparency in ad networks
This way of working has given Schibsted the reputation of being a company with extensive knowledge in the matters at hand as well as a company willing to help improve the regulations, according to Petra.
Prioritising topics that affect Schibsted most
How do you choose the topics you focus on?
“We prioritise issues that are most important for the majority of Schibsted’s businesses. That include areas such as competition in digital markets, GDPR and privacy issues, targeted advertising, regulation of online marketplaces, media policies and most recently, Artificial Intelligence”
Sometimes companies in the Schibsted group bring up topics to the Public Policy team, other times they are alerted by consultants in Brussels about planned new regulations that may affect Schibsted.
Two types of challenges
In her presentation, Petra claims that global tech giants, such as Google and Facebook, represent two types of challenges for a company like Schibsted:
- Financial challenges. Both Google and Facebook are big players in the global ad market, and a direct competitor to Schibsted for these revenues. Another challenge is subscriptions to our products in native apps on iOS and Google Play where we lose access to data about our own users.
- Content challenges. Different platforms have policies for which content they allow, and sometimes even content from media companies is being restricted.
With Artificial Intelligence even new challenges are arising, for instance with ChatGPT putting itself between our users and our content.
“For Schibsted it is important that the dominance of the global tech giants is limited, including their access to collect data,” Petra says.
Schibsted vs the tech giants
“But what’s the real difference between Schibsted and the tech giants in this area?” someone in the Bergen audience asked, pointing out that also Schibsted collects lots of data.
“There is one big difference,” Petra responded.
“In Schibsted we only collect data within our own ecosystem and we are fully transparent with our users about how we do it. Google, on the other hand, does not only collect data from its own platforms, but also from other sites and platforms. That is a significant difference, and it is important that Google is more transparent in how they do this.”