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November 2007
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What would we do without internet?

It was Christmas day in a tiny village in a remote corner of the world. My mum wanted to go to church, yet the local paper didn't list at what the times the Christmas sermons were on.


Abdicating local coverage?
Now, we could talk of abdicating coverage and all of that, but I have a hunch the common practice is that churches have to pay for ads to get the times mentioned, and, in either case, there's always the internet: of course the Norwegian state church has its own homepage that lists sermons in various towns and cities...

The Government gets RSS-feeds (or, RSS is now at the political realm's disposal, let's hope it 'gets it' as well)
....via Andreas I even learned today that the Norwegian Government finally has managed to add RSS-feeds for each and every government department to its website, with separate feeds for the parliament's two chambers, for press releases, white papers, green papers etc. Now if the politicians and lobby groups could only learn to subscribe to the documents they need via newsreaders, we might save a small forest each month - and maybe this country could edge a bit closer to deserving all those political claims to being a world champion in environmentalism, though when it comes to digital democracy the Estonians are still way ahead of the game....

Santa Claus beats Jesus – at least during Christmas

Santa Claus has been mentioned 2083 times in Norway's newspapers, on- and offline, this December, compared to Jesus, who's only been mentioned 675 times. However, the latter has a longer "season" and has been mentioned about 3,000 times as often as Santa during the entire year, according to Propaganda (measured via Norwegian search engine Sesam and A-tekst, the Norwegian equivalent of Lexis Nexis – both are set-up to only track national websites and media outlets).

Not that I really needed to know this, but hey, someone out there might find it interesting (for the record I should also state that Propaganda was one of my employers this year, but I now work for a competing media site).

Christmas Glitter Graphics

Christmas Glitter Graphics

Swedish link love: linking to bloggers breeds loyalty rather than traffic increase for MSM

What, if any, is the added value news sites can get from linking to bloggers?

If you're well versed in the dynamics of social media you might think this a silly question, but for news companies with a deeply ingrained 'silo-mentality' the answers are far from obvious. In fact, even if you run your own blog, it's not obvious that the benefits you get from linking up the conversations spurred by what you post on a very narrow niche topic will scale when you transfer the experiment to the country's biggest mass media outlets.

And since I work at the intersection of social media and mainstream media (MSM) – actually, I believe this is where all journalists work these days, whether they're conscious, or approve of it or not – I was curious about how news sites who link to bloggers felt this worked, so I asked a few newspapers in my 'neighbourhood' early this month (for this article, in Norwegian).

In Sweden, big nationals such as Dagens Nyheter (DN) and Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) have used Twingly, a blog search engine that can be used by newspapers to show blog links to articles, since early this year. In Norway, the country's second biggest tabloid, Dagbladet, has been experimenting with it since October.

In essence, they all said they had no evidence to suggest it created more traffic to their respective news sites, but it created more loyal users and was a way of connecting with the blogosphere which gave added value to their websites (Sweden), and it was valuable to hear what people thought about their journalism (Norway).

On the negative side, the biggest drawback was how many bloggers tried to 'game' the system and linked to the news sites' articles just to get traffic, though their content was completely unrelated to the articles they linked to and often nonsensical.

However, even though DN removed bloglinks concerning the caricature controversy earlier this year, controversial links represented only a minor problem for the newspapers, and Bo Hedin, head of digital media at SvD, told me it was extremely rare that they did block or remove Twingly links. He said he felt newspapers had to make a fundamental choice in this respect, and pointed me to an argument he'd made on his blog (my translation):

"As a media company we have to make a choice. We can either open up and accept that the odd link takes readers to opinions we don't share, or we can close the connection to the readers, op-ed writers and bloggers out there, and let the journalists publish their articles unbothered by the rest of the world."

Over at DN, Charlotta Friborg, the paper's managing editor online, told me that, like SvD, they had not experienced any significant traffic increase from linking to bloggers, rather it was the other way around: sent a lot of traffic to blogs.

As Media Culpa's Hans Kullin, I found it a bit puzzling to hear that MSM links send lots of traffic to bloggers. It may of course be the topic, both Kullin and I write about media stuff rather than highly controversial or political issues. Friborg did point out to me that Sweden has a lot high-profile political blogs, and those were often the blogs that spurred massive traffic.

Still, this blog has been linked up by a wide range of mainstream media, including Dagens Nyheter, Financial Times, Business Week, Washington Post, The Guardian etc. Of those, only the latter two have led to any significant traffic increase, and even then, the traffic has been miniscule compared to what happens when you get a link from A-list bloggers such as Dave Winer or Doc Searls.

The difference, I think, is community, and perhaps a different kind of readers. When I've been linked up by Washington Post and The Guardian, it has been via writers like Howard Kurtz and Roy Greenslade who both have a very strong following, or community, of readers who are passionate about the topics they write about, perhaps so passionate that they will follow the links to learn more?

But I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, and I'd also be very interested if you know of other, more formal or exhaustive, surveys on this topic (e.g. what are the experiences of really big papers like Washington Post and New York Times?)....

It's not a chore, not another bundle of deadlines: it's conversation

While catching up with my neglected RSS-feeds (that's getting to be a regular habit of mine, while too busy chasing deadlines I tend to save the 'thinking blogs' for a quieter day), I came across yet another healthy reminder of how to (not) go about blogging.

I readily admit that I often feel guilty about not blogging more - mainly because this blog, although a blank sheet when I started, has very much turned into my (public) notebook on the changing media landscape, and there's just so many interesting changes going on I'd like to record, for myself more than anybody else - but because I write so much in my professional life, it just becomes too much if I turn blogging into yet another chore. So I have to leave it aside for a while if it'not fun, if I can't use it as a welcome break inbetween all my looming deadlines and 'have-to-dos'.

I also realise that I've linked to a similar quote by Jeff Jarvis before, but I don't think it can be stressed enough, so here goes:

When I was in London, I sat with folks from the BBC in an afternoon devoted to blogging, and the woman next to me was troubled, bearing weight on her shoulders from having to fill her blog and manage her blog. To her, the blog was a thing, a beast that needed to be fed, a never-ending sheet of blank paper. I turned to her and said she should see past the blog. It’s not a show with a rundown that, without feeding, turns into dead air. Indeed, if you look at it that way, you’ll probably write crappy blog posts. I’ve said before that if I think I need to write a post just because I haven’t written one, I inevitably come out with something forced and bad. Instead, I blog when I find something interesting that I’ve seen and I think, ‘I have to tell my friends about that.’ You’re the friends. So yes, I said, it’s just a conversation. And reading — hearing what others are saying — is every bit as important as writing. It was as if scales were lifted from her eyes and weight from her back: She’s just talking with people.

Südwestdeutsche Medien Holding wins bid for Germany's bestselling broadsheet

Südwestdeutsche Medien Holding (SWMH) has secured an additional 62,5 per cent stake in Süddeutscher Verlag, the Stuttgart group that publishes Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany's largest daily broadsheet. The group, which is Germany's third largest publisher of daily newspapers, already controls 18,73 per cent of the shares in the company (via Spiegel/Reuters).

The acquisition, due to be completed 29 February 2008, puts an end to months of speculations about the German publisher's future: pan-European media company Mecom and private equity firms Apax, 3i and Providence were all rumoured to have lined up bids (The Australian via Iann). It is also a setback for Mecom-boss Montgomery's ambitions to become the third largest newspaper publisher in Germany.

More rumours Schibsted is wooing Metro International

This spring Scandinavian media reported that Schibsted was wooing Metro International. Today, Dagens Media tells us "several sources state that Schibsted plans to buy all, or part of, Metro International." According to the anonymous sources, Metro Stockholm is the prime, or initial, acquisition target. Acquiring Metro Stockholm would put Schibsted in a better position to win the financially draining freesheet war in Stockhom, where Schibsted's Punkt SE currently is competing with Stockholm Metro and Bonnier's City for readers and ad revenues. Both Schibsted and Metro International's representatives refused to confirm or deny the rumours.

Ryanair: We fight for women's right to undress

Ryanair has launched a calendar with a number of its perky stewardesses posing in bikinis, and, towards the back, a somewhat less flattering picture of a stewardess supposed to represent its main competitor, Air Lingus.

Answering the flurry of complaints from the usual suspects, Wilhelm Hamilton, Ryanair's head of North European operations told Dagens Media: "We're going to continue to fight for women's right to undress," adding that any proceeds from the calendar, sold on board Ryainair flights and online, would be donated to charity.


Interesting. I wouldn't be surprised if some fifty per cent of the world's non-religious population would support that fight, but will it sell airline tickets?

Now that I don't have any clients in the travel industry anymore (check my about section or Linkedin profile), I'm free to say I feel Ryanair is the airline industry's equivalent of public transport: I've often marvelled at how it has made the most colourful cross-segment of ages, professions and ethnic groups take to flying. No other airline has quite as diverse a group of loyal frequent flyers.

I can see how the 'campaign' will go down well with the two rows of rowdy football supporters usually seated in the back of the cabin, but I'm not convinced about the Imam and his family filling up the six middle rows; those excited souls part-taking in the pensioner association's first foreign excursion in the four front rows, nor the families with screaming kids seated inconveniently where they can't but help be the centre of attention.

In essence, I wonder if this 'campaign' isn't a bit 'off-target', but we all choose our battles in life, don't we Wilhelm?

Disclosure: I've helped Ryanair promote its route from Torp to Liverpool – taking care of the press side of staging a Beatles event in Oslo - back when I was a not-so-secret agent for the British not-so-civil service.

Update 15:55pm: Talking about the civil service, Spain's government-run Women's Institute is considering to take legal action against Ryanair, 'not so much because the pictures are sexual, but because there are no men in the calendar', writes Gridskipper (via Wikio)....

Another freesheet bites the dust

Bonnier has decided to pull the plug for the Göteborg edition of its freesheet, City, just as the Swedes take off for the Christmas holiday on Friday 21 December. The free daily has a circulation of 44,000 and was launched when the freesheet craze hit Sweden last autumn. Lars Lundblom from paid for daily Göteborg Posten (GP) told Dagens Media that neither of the freesheets launched in the city back then, Schibsted's Punkt SE and Bonnier's City Göteborg, had managed to get a footing in the ad market so far, so, in his opinion, City's closure would have no effect on GP. He did however concede that the regional freesheet 'war', had led to a decline in over-the-counter sales, but said, for a paper that gets 98,5 per cent of its revenues from newspaper sales from subscriptions, the impact of this was marginal. Newspaper Innovation has more facts and figures.

I've taken on a new role

It can be challenging to be both a blogger and a journalist.

Knowing all that is possible online in terms of interaction, community and distribution, not to mention the speed with which the online debate moves, the chasm between the two different worlds can sometimes seem impossibly wide.

As a journalist you frequently find yourself trapped and constrained by numerous ill-founded ideas about sticky content, pay-walls, archaic content management systems, ill-advised formats, illogical workflow arrangements etc.

As a blogger you're your own man or woman and free take all sorts of liberties, including the liberty to bury the news in the fourth paragraph. I'm not going start applying the latter to my work as a journalist, but due to all the other reasons above, and a few more, I'm delighted to have joined, where I'll be working as a journalist and with the community aspects of future online projects. You could say we're the equivalent of NUJ's The Journalist, though I'm sure you'd agree we're quite a few steps ahead online, and we plan to take many more steps into the future very soon, steps which include experimenting with Drupal.

The project offers me a chance to work with an editor who is very attuned to the potential of online media, as well as an old acquaintance I had fun working with half a life ago, in the early days of my writing career (yes, I do feel terribly old sometimes, but then I've always done, this was back in 96 or so, I was 19). For the time being, I'm working half-time, which enables me to retain old clients in various countries, take on occasional new assignments, and jump on a plane whenever I feel the need to spread my wings a bit.

I've been writing almost exclusively about media and the communications industry for quite a while now, both offline and online, so the focus of this blog will not change in any way, but I might mention a few stories I work on for Journalisten when they are relevant to the issues I blog about (and most of the time I'll be able to link to them, which wasn't always the case before).

Correspondingly, there will still be stories I don't blog about because I've covered them as a journalist. For instance, as a former NUJ-member, I was itching to say something about the whole NUJ-debacle recently, but I linked out to the key arguments when I wrote about it for, which was good for giving our readers a flavour of the debate – in this day and age, the challenges each nation's media industry face are more similar than they are different, at least in the Western world. So better watch this space when Journalisten, in months to come, gets more innovative online...

VIP bizarreness


What on earth am I doing tailing Al Gore and Rajendra K. Pachauri, hmm.... not one of my days. Or maybe I should just have headlined this picture of mine 'caption competition'?

Update 21/12: the answer is that, of course, I wasn't tailing these guys at all. I'd just left Grand Hotel after an interesting interview with the head of the Nobel Peace Prize Comittee, Ole Danbolt Mjös - where he talked about the Committee's dedication to fighting what it sees as 'the root causes' of conflict, such as poverty (last year's peace prize) and environment (this year's price), arguing that this was no more controversial than when the Comittee started focusing on nuclear weapons or human rights violations - when we were shoved aside by policemen and the peace price winners walked past, and into the black car in the picture.


On the death of a highly regarded media owner

He was a 'guarantor of editorial freedom, of publicistic principles', 'a life-long supporter of independent journalism', 'a genuine media man with a great love of newspapers, 'a towering figure in international media industry'.

If I was to pick the most intriguing media story in my part of the world the past month, it would have to be the death of Tinius Nagell-Erichsen (15.02-1934 – 12.11- 2007), the largest shareholder and chairman of the board of Norwegian media group Schibsted.

Tinius, a descendant of Schibsted's founder Christian Michael Schibsted, effectively held the controlling stake in the company, and through The Tinius Trust he created an elaborate construct meant to ensure editorial freedom for Schibsted's media outlets also after his death. A construct it is widely hoped will guarantee, that even though the majority of Schibsted's shareholders are foreigners, control of the group will never fall into foreign hands.

I've wondered at times if journalists will ever come to love their proprietors, or if the nature of a journalist's relationship to his or her proprietor by nature is antagonistic. If you apply the 'cartoon-like' script of black and white, of clear heros and villains, the media so often is accused of reducing the world to to the media industry itself, it often seems the former is always keen to spend, the latter always to save; the former perpetually driven by love an public spirit, the latter by nasty motives of profit, often regardless of whether or not the editorial product suffers.

But then again, perhaps the relationship is more complex; I've also heard a former Mirror hack describe the late Robert Maxwell as a good proprietor - a crook, but still a good proprietor who effectively saved the paper.

In either case, Tinius was treated like royalty. In Norway, one would have been forgiven for thinking the whole nation was mourning the death of 'Norway's last media mogul', and it was surprising to read all the praise lavished on him, both here and throughout the countries Schibsted operates it.


Perhaps I've spent too much time writing about the grief and complaints resulting from media cutbacks, efficiency measures and the challenges of media convergence, but I was taken aback by how leading politicians, employee representatives and editors seemed united in their praise for this 'life-long newspaper man' who also was true to esteemed Norwegian virtues such as 'never being self-important'.


Yes, there were some whispers of less than favourable stories attached to his name, like how, according to this book, he and his family would freely help themselves to company money and goods back when Schibsted was a family-owned company in the eighties, but that, apparently, was common practice among media owners in the 'old days'. "Tinius represented the old time and was the last survivor of a long tradition," media professor, Rolf Höyer told Journalisten. In the words of media professor Hans Fredik Dahl: "He was a dinosaur, a type of media owner we won't see more of."

Tinius, who always had a love affair with printed papers, was highly sceptical to the online expansion Kjell Aamot, Schibsted's CEO, and his lieutenants masterminded. He inherited his money and was a typical representative of the traditional family-owner, "the complete opposite to dynamic media proprietors such as David Montgomery," said Höyer.

And yet this 'dinosaur' has been widely commended by Schibsted-employees and other media insiders for leaving his executives free to experiment, most notably online and with freesheets. It is this freedom, editorial and otherwise, that will be Tinius' lasting legacy, or, in the powerful words of Jose Antonio Martinez Solers, founder of the Spanish free paper 20 Minutos:

We staked our decision [to sell to Schibsted] on the Tinius Trust’s guarantee of freedom of the press. This freedom is such a marvellous plant; a plant though fragile and delicate. As you probably realize, for centuries it was an exotic foreign plant that could not thrive in Spain. And now, Schibsted is defending and cultivating this marvellous plant in 20 counties with many different languages (read the rest of his eulogy here)

The statue of Tinius Nagell-Erichsen outside Schibsted's headquarters in Oslo. In the days following his death it was adorned with flowers and candles (my picture)