The end of Mecom

War, controversy, public outcry, murder: Now that Belgium’s De Persgroep is set to buy the remains of what was once Monty’s Mecom a very coulourful chapter of European media history is about to end.

Danish employees are, understandably, reported to be relieved, now that the very drawn-out sales process finally seems to be coming to an end and Dutch competition authorities have given the  all clear for Belgian family-owned media company De Persgroep to go ahead with its acquistion of the remains of Mecom, comprised of the Danish media group Berlingske and the Dutch media group Wegener.

However, even though much has been made of the fact that De Persgroep, being family-owned, is a much more "palatable" proprietor than former Mecom-boss David Montgomery (with his reputation as a "consistent cold-blooded cost-cutter") reported a few months back that De Persgroep's rein will start with cost-cuts (though these might primarily affect the Dutch operations where there would be major synergies between Wegener and De Persgroep's existing operations).

As for Mecom's colourful history, that's perhaps worth revisiting later: but it's fascinating to think about how much has happened these last eight media years...

Is 2014 the year of Buzzfeed copycats?

In Scandinavia, one of this year’s most talked about and controversial media «innovations» has been the surge in new sites copying key aspects of Buzzfeed’s self-dubbed «art of social publishing».

This week Nieman Journalism Lab has an interesting piece on how this trend, traditional newspaper companies starting competing Buzzfeed imitators, has been playing out in Sweden. But the same is true for Norway, and on a smaller scale Denmark – though the players differ.

In Norway, the media market I know best, Amedia-owned regional newspaper Nordlys has been leading the pack with the launch of in June – followed by NHST Media Group-owned financial daily’s and Egmont’s Superlike. In Denmark we’ve seen sites like Egmont’s /

Why? According to Anders Opdahl, Buzzit-boss and editor-in-chief of Nordlys, «Desperate times breeds desperate measures».

At a meeting of the Norwegian Online News Association (NONA), which I’ve blogged about in Norwegian here and Kampanje has written a good summary of here, he explained:

“The backdrop for the Buzzit launch was, to be completely honest, the dramatic fall in print revenues. We were not able to fit skilled digital employees into the budget for 2015. We had to cut costs and do this based on the seniority principle, and we could not defend keeping these young people. Incidentally, this happened just when the New York Times Innovation report was leaked - on BuzzFeed.”

So was launched as a new, separate organisation and site with the intention of trying out a new form of distribution for journalism. The site has a staff of six: five journalists working shifts and one business developer.

Opdahl said the current focus of the site is on building position and distribution, though it is a long-term ambition to be able to also do investigative journalism once the site has built enough traffic. Like Buzzfeed, Buzzit is primarily a mobile site, not a desktop site - very little of the site’s traffic comes from desktop. When Buzzit started out, a lot of its content was stories taken from Amedia’s many regional newspapers and subbed or “optimised” for social media.

A key aspect of the site’s ambition is about understanding how social media works: How does one maximize organic proliferation, what role does segmentation and fragmentation play?

And though the site has been far from immune to controversies similar to those affecting Buzzfeed, with  accusations of plagiarism, copy theft etc, it has obviously not stopped other Norwegian media companies from launching similar sites.  

I must admit I feel a bit depressed to see these sites lauded as major new media innovations, or to suggest, as I do in the title, that this media year could be dubbed the year of Buzzfeed copycats. But two points made towards the end of the above-mentioned NONA-meeting, bears repeating here:

«These sites have innovated the distribution model in a way many can learn from, but it is not a good thing for everyone to copy it for that reason. What we really need is innovation on the business- and revenue side of the media industry, where there really is a crisis. This “social publishing innovation” is a microscopic innovation and microscopic progress,” said Arne Krumsvik, a former media executive turned media academic (and my comrade-in-arms building NONA in its early days).

«In the same way that Buzzit is moving towards more traditional formats, the more traditional media is moving towards Buzzit. Social media skills must be increased, social media is important in the same way as newspaper distribution used to be important before,» said media columnist Sven Egil Omdal. (screengrab):


Update 15.02.2015: Schibsted-owned VG joined the fray and launched a few days after this post was written. More about the launch here (in Norwegian)

Malmö, Limhamn, police violence and Facebook: How news find you anno 2014

I’ve been pondering how news find us anno 2014 for a while and will blog more in-depth about this later, but I just had a very interesting experience which illustrates how things are changing:

So, I catch up on the news stream from my friends on Facebook early in the morning, as I often do. I see an American friend who lives in Malmö, Sweden, but currently is vacationing in Portugal ask what this story on violence and Nazis in Limhamn, Malmö, filling up his FB-news feed is about, asking his friends to fill him in (which they do).

This makes me visit and, the Norwegian news sites I think of as being the most likely places to be quick to cover breaking news.

Yet I find nothing, so I go back to reading Facebook – and lo and behold, a story on the demonstration and police violence in Limhamn finds me.

Published by, which wouldn’t normally be the first place I’d look for breaking news as I’ve sort of got down as better on analysis and in-depth stuff than on breaking news.     

So maybe things are changing at  also, as the news comapany recently (end of last year) nicked its top boss from

In either case, an anecdote which will inspire more thought.

It must be said though, that it might have read very differently had I been working in news (which I currently don’t), and had I not run out of coffee, which I had this morning, my first point of call might have been Swedish rather than Norwegian news sites.

In other words: Better go get some coffee.

From journalist to factory worker

Food for thought from high profile Norwegian news presenter Odd Reider Solem (from interview with regional BT via Thor Bjarne Bore, in my hasty translation):

- You were one of the first journalists to graduate from DH Volda in 1973. What is the difference between being a journalist then and now?

- This is a big question I can say a lot about. Back then we evaluated all our broadcasts thoroughly. I was working for NRK Radio making radio reports that we put a lot of effort into. Now we just produce, as quickly and as much as possible in as short a time as possible. Journalism has become a factory where it is quantity and not quality that matters.

- What is the most dramatic broadcast you have contributed to in all these years?

- Oh, that is not an easy one to answer. I was on holiday 22 July 2011, but was called back on duty. I had to read out all the names of all those who were assassinated that day. That was an assignment I can never forget.

Full interview here (in New Norwegian)

See also my former colleague Martin's interviw with Solem for in which he explains himself more in-depth and adds more nuance (in Norwegian).

New paywall for Norway's newspaper of record

Schibsted-owned Aftenposten raises the paywall. From 12pm today (about now) non-subscribers can only read eight online articles a week before they have to pay for online access.

Digital subscribers have to pay about £20 per month (with today's exchange rate). Most comments I've seen on the story so far are calling for a Spotify-solution that would allow you to subscribe to all Norwegian online newspapers (or at the very least Schibsted's Norwegian newspapers) for one price - akin to what Piano Media operates in various countries - instead of each news site raising separate paywalls.

See also (from 2012): Scandinavian media hit by paywall craze.

Screenshot of Aftenposten's paywall ("You have now read 8 free articles this week. To get unlimited access to Aftenposten you have to be a subscriber." First month for new subscribers: 1 krone (about 10 pence) ):



Newspaper with hyperlocal Facebook success

Hyperlocal news stories, such as "New shelf at Tesco's", shared 50,000 times on Facebook in ten days - despite the news site producing them serving a muncipality of only 2000 and recording an average of 8000 daily unique users.

This story on local news site Salangen News (in Norwegian) is truly a fascinating read (and it doesn't translate too bad to English with Google Translate either).

The news site has recieved quite a bit of attention from national media in the wake of a new book, "Government Minister won cured ham (and other local news)" by comedians Atle Antonsen and Johan Golden, which quotes several news stories from Salangen News (NB: I've translated the supermarket's name, Prix, to a UK one, Tesco's for my UK readers)   


22/7: The strangest (newspaper) memorial and a heart-warming social media campaign

Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of the twin terror attack that killed 77 people in Oslo and on Utöya in 2011.

The terror of that day still feels unfathomable, surreal. To some extent, more so now than when the terrible events of the day way were unfolding. In the earlyish hours of the aftermath in 2011, at noon-time Saturday 23/7, I summed up some of the very early impressions for this newspaper analysis.

Today, there’s so much to say, and yet a few media-related things stand out amid all the things that feel too much to go into right now (the terrible losses, the slow progress of improving national security, the difficulties in preventing lone-wolf terrorism, all the implications etc):

  • The strangest newspaper memorial

For close to two years I’ve frequently walked past the strangest of 22/7-memorials.

In the mentioned analysis-piece I detail how huge sections of the glass wall of Norwegian newspaper VG, the one facing the Government headquarters where the bomb went off, shattered on 22/7.

What I didn’t mention was VG’s newspaper display stand, also facing the bomb site, which was just partially broken.

And for close to two years, until the end of last month, this damaged display stand, with the morning edition of VG on the 22 July - before the innocence of that warm summer day had been shattered – stood right outside VG’s main entrance.  

The broken display stand is a strange record of a morning of summer bliss and innocent silly season news that just barely survived the impact of the bomb blast, a moment of "normalcy", before all hell broke loose, frozen in time. And it remained there outside the newspaper entrance for close to two years:

Reminding every visitor of Norway’s most read newspaper for the last two years of that morning before those dreadful events and what happened later that day. A fact that is even more strange keeping in mind how newspapers dislike old news.


At the end of June though, the display stand was temporarily moved across the street, closer to the ghost-like bomb-site and its bombed-out buildings which loom as another strange, uncomfortable kind of memorial of 22/7.

The newspaper display stand will however be removed permanently and turned into an art project, you can hear more about that (in English) in this video (if you skip the ad at the beginning).  

Photos by me, snapped with my mobile phone camera

  • A heart warming social media campaign

Logging on to Twitter last morning I was met by the hash tag #Venn22Juli (or #Friend22July ) – a bunch of Norwegian Twitterati offering people in need of it a friend, a coffee, a beer, someone to talk to, companionship during one of the many 22 July commemorations etc yesterday. Neat.

However, although I found room for some valuable reflections and briefely catching up with the various 22 July commemorations yesterday, I was busy with other stuff and generally find myself listening more than talking and participating online right now.

Still, I saw lots of talk about 22 July, lots of expressions of grief, offers of support etc on Twitter and Facebook – I didn’t see one 22 July-related story on Google+ yesterday.

That is kind of interesting, as 22 July was THE terror attack where G+ first made a difference and came into the limelight.

For my own part, the photos I took of all that shattered glass after the bomb went off was automatically uploaded to G+ from my Android phone, resulted in lots of media queries and I remember lots and lots of discussions about 22/7 in its immediate aftermath on G+.


Now? I wonder…. Though it’s perhaps one of the least important puzzles regarding 22/7, I’m still curious as to what that implies for Google+...

On bringing about real change (or using disruption management to create innovation)

"You can’t bring about innovation with disruption," a friend of mine likes to say. Luckily, I’ve also gleamed some valuable insights on exactly how to go about changing what I myself like to call dysfunctional organisations from her, or how to disrupt them enough to bring about real innovation.

But first a bit of background for why I’m blogging this post now: Some time ago I was invited to manage the Twitter-account of Corporate Rebels in week 12 this year, in other words the week now coming to an end. Corporate who? You can read more about the concept here, or the short version here.

Their starting point:

"Our organizations no longer serve our needs. They cannot keep pace with a high-velocity, hyper-connected world. They no longer can do what we need them to do. Change is required."

I couldn’t agree more, but how do you bring about the needed change?

 As someone who’s spent most of her professional life working for legacy media, I know that change doesn’t come easy – a fact I’ve blogged about at numerous times, most recently (and with a positive slant) in this post on how to transition from legacy media culture to the digital world.

Now it must be said I had no idea how insanely short on time and focus outside of work I’d be this week (and how much in need of the vacation I started yesterday) when I accepted the challenge to manage @CorporateRebels in week 12. But, now  that my much needed vacation has finally arrived, it offers me the opportunity (and much needed impetus) to sit down and write that post I’ve long been contemplating on disruption management.

As so many good things in life, it started with a great conversation: This particular conversation took place in London in 2010, while visiting my friend Adriana Lukas (who, as it happens, was the woman who set up this very blog for me and told me to get blogging back in 2005). Adriana is, in Jackie Danicki’s words, "a professional disruptor" and the topic for our conversation that evening, was Adriana’s recent thoughts on what she coined ”disruption management”.

In Adriana’s words (via this blog post by Jackie): "Disruption is not about destruction. It’s about putting things off-balance in order to change them, so you can sneak something new and better in between the cracks."

Here’s how (again, in Adriana’s words, as she explains this much better herself than I do):

The challenge for anyone looking to change the old ways is to:

  • avoid existing and mostly dysfunctional processes
  • connect to the outside where the shifts are being defined
  • bring the change inside and apply it to their sphere of influence
  • find people to set up a loose and cross-functional network of allies who end up building alternative ways

The first three apply to those who have had their OFM. The forth is the hardest and involves co-operation, conversations, reaching out and most of all willingness to face the stigma of a disruptor. There rarely is innovation without disruption…

 This, in short, is the recipe for disruption management if I’ve understood Adriana correctly. She also has this very useful (and funny) post on what kind of persons within any organisation who might be persuaded to become your allies in bringing about change.

After having that late night conversation with Adriana about disruption management back in January 2010, it felt like I had found an important, missing link that tied so much of what I had been thinking about the previous few years together.

See, I’ve always felt that companies, and especially media companies, are very much like more or less dysfunctional families (please note, I say this with almost as much love as I have for my own weird and wonderful family), and I’ve sometimes observed how dysfunctional managers create co-dependent employees. In general,  I’d long been contemplating how there's so much that is true about individual psychology that's also true about companies: "As above, so below"  - macro cosmos mirrors micro cosmos.

And journalism has at times felt like one of the most dysfunctional industries ever, dysfunction being the norm and not the exception - something that's even eulogised at times. As a journalist, hearing eulogies like this about other media folks is not uncommon: "He was a right old crook and bastard, mercurial and just plain impossible at times, a heavy drinker whose wife long since left him: But he was a hell of a journalist to the end of his times". Crook, bastard and heavy drinker often being honorary words when used by journalists and editors about journalists and editors.

This is a type of mythology I’ve always detested, and why I’ve repeatedly talked about how journalism needs new heroes, new myths: And as I’m passionate about the opportunities online media holds for transforming and expanding journalism, I’ve often talked about the way new online tools and services can help bring about more open, more transparent, more social, more informed, more service-oriented journalism - and sought to point to "heroes" and positive "myths" from that field.

It’s easy to point out how tools such as Twitter of Google Maps have created new opportunities for lazy journalism and celebrity stalking, but there’s also tons of examples on how such tools have created a more transparent, more informed journalism that wasn’t quite possible in the same way before.

So when you bring the change new tools represents into media organisations, it changes journalism as well. Also, if you can identify, educated and network the people who have the passion, and the skills or willingness to learn them, for bringing about change, that can also help bring about new solutions, new alliances – and affect change. Which all, might help bring about small, loosely organised, doses of disruption management, though perhaps not enough? Perhaps, the change is only incremental as the old school still is in charge?  (Kevin has posted some reflections related to this here)

Again, I do know how hard it can be, or seem, to bring about substantial change in the industry I’m most familiar with as we’re always chasing deadlines, always fighting the daily chaos (which I written about here, here, here and here – to mention a few posts). So these tips come in handy:

A few tips for those who find themselves in a situation where the organisation is their worst enemy:

  1. Don’t try to change the system from within – i.e. trying to bring a change by going through established and outdated processes.
  2. Find people inside the organisation who understand both how important and good such change is and the original reason behind processes that are stopping it.
  3. Increase their knowledge and understanding of what you are trying to bring about, share tools, passion, ideas, frustrations.
  4. Gradually connect these people in a network that will amplify their ability to make things happen ‘under the radar’, i.e. bypassing the dysfunctional processes and in effect creating alternative ways of doing things.
  5. Make sure the ‘alternative ways’ are not grabbed by the system’s people and turned into their version of inflexible and ossified processes.
  6. Rinse, lather and repeat – 2 or 3 times helps but once already feels good.
  7. Wave good bye to ‘business cases’ and say hello to ‘case studies’ i.e. ‘this is how we have done it and all we want is to enable everyone else to do something similar if they wish’.

This, to my mind, is brilliant advice, and applies not only to companies but to all kinds of organisations. This, I think, is also why all kinds of networks of change makers, change hungry or change curious people, such as Norwegian Online News Association and Girl Geek Dinners, can be so powerful when it comes to connecting the right people with each other and with powerful ideas…

Paywall success for "Ål inclusive"

After introducing a "hard" paywall in November 2011, tiny local newspaper Hallingdölen in Ål, Norway, boasts  of its best financial year ever in 2012.

The name of its businessmodel? "Ål inclusive" (the term refers to how only paying subscribers can access the paper on all platforms).

Fascinating. And if you know that "betalingsmur" is Norwegian for paywall, Google does a half-decent job if you try running this Kampanje-piece on the story through Google translate.

As I wrote about for, Scandinavian media was hit by a bit of a paywall craze last year, so a lot of people will be watching this and the early results from other recent paywall-projects very closely. Hallingdölen also claims, in the before-mentioned article, to have been the inspiration for another recent and much talked about paywall-project, that of Norwegian regional Faedrelandsvennen (which I blogged about here).

What makes this extra interesting, is that this story comes in the same week as Facebook introduced it latest revamp and with re-newed vigour made clear its ambitions to become "the world's best personal" newspaper - or position itself as your (hyper)local newspaper if you like.

So where does this leave local newspapers long-term? How long before Facebook will conquer the (hyper)local ad market? Or will Facebook's hübris and blantant disregard for its users privacy have killed it off before it ever can conquer such a positon in a rural part of a country on the outskirts of the world such as Norway (albeit a country with a very impressive broadband penetration)?   

HMV, Blockbuster, Jessops & disintermediation anno 2013

A post about the recent bankruptcies of high street chains HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops - brands which holds a lot of memories with me - made me think back to a a favourite video which bears revisiting.

"Where-ever there is mediation there will be disruption. This is not just the lesson of an economic downturn - it is the structural reality of the networked world - of an Open Economy... The web disintermediates - and retail is mediation," wrote David Cushman following the recent collapse of these household names.

That post, or maybe it was HMV's collapse, I don't quite remember, reminded me of the excellent "Day of the Longtail", which I think I came across in 2006 or thereabouts via Adriana. Back then it was a feeling that this kind of disitermediation was imminent, but it has been a slow, drawn-out process which has far from come to it's end. In either case, the video is worth revisiting:


Montgomery praises Norwegian media

"You don't often hear the chairman of a new British newspaper publisher begin his launch press conference by saying how inspirational things are in Norway," Peter Preston writes in today's Observer.

He's writing about former Mecom-boss David Montgomery's newest media venture, regional newspaper group Local World, and it must be said it's far from the first time Montgomery has praised online developement in the Norwegian media market.

And rightly so, while Montgomery was in charge of Mecom, the company's Norwegian arm, Edda Media, was top of the class within the pan-European company both in terms of online product development and of earning money online.

My recent visit to the US for the Online News Association (ONA's) annual conference also brought home to me to how well Norwegian media (Schibsted, Edda, A-pressen etc) measure up, even compared to international media, when it comes to online journalism and innovation. But then it must also be said that as the founder and former president of the Norwegian Online News Association (NONA), where I'm still on the board, I may of course be somewhat biased.

A more interesting question is perhaps how well the ideas Montgomery bring with him from his time in Mecom, so controversial among Norwegian journalists, will go down with UK journalists. 

Preston describes the gist of it as re-modelling local newspapers as "a one-stop shop for content and commerce".

That sounds very much like something along the line of what Montgomery described more in detail in this debate arranged by the Norwegian Union of Journalists (NJ) here (see the text below the subtitle "Newspapers to sell lingerie and wine). Or are we past that debate about knocking down the walls separating editorial and advertisement by now?

In either case, here's a few perspectives on Local World I found in my newsreader (amazingly my Icerocket search on Mecom still works, I'm so used to useful free online services being bought up or shut down by now):


EU funds European platform for media accountability

Given all the different European press codes and national challenges, what should a European website for recording media transgressions focus on to be most useful?

That was the question at a media bloggers’ seminar  in Bristol, organised by the EU-funded Media Act project, I was privileged to attend some weeks back.

Should such a website just feature a collation of RSS-feeds from different European journalist union sites and media bloggers, or should it do regular features to highlight interesting cases? Or something else all together? And could there possible be pan-European interest for media challenges that are unique to England, Hungary or Norway? Can we share best practices, and how could we do that in the most useful way?

Those were some of the questions raised at the meeting.

For my own part, I’m a big fan of sharing both challenges and best practices. Not at least I think it’s very useful to share stories about how we handle various challenges.

A case to the point is the twin terror attacks in Oslo and on Utöya 22/7 and the aftermath.

This was a very challenging and resource-intensive story to cover, 60 complaints have been lodged to the Press Complains Commission of which 49 were unique (some complaints concerned the same issues), 40 have been evaluated and six media organisations have been deemed in breach of the industry’s agreed code of ehics. But also, there’s something about the scope and impact of this story, and the many online innovations created to best cover the trial against the perpetrator.

As VG’s Anders Giaever wrote in one of his many brilliant comment pieces from the trial (my translation): ”Tears are shed at the judge’s table. The defence attorney looks downs and rubs his eyes. Several of the defendant’s attorneys are fighting to gain control over their voices. Journalists are crying. The audience is crying. And of course the next of kin, the families of the victims and the survivors are crying.”

That of course is one kind of story, raising all sorts of ethical issues and conundrums. A very different kind are the kind of cases mentioned by Mediawise’s Mike Jempson where the media perpetuates something blatantly untrue or so twisted it comes close to a lie which could be so hard to live with it results in suicide or other terrible consequences.

There are the ethical issues we all struggle to grasp with in the best possible way, while sometimes failing due to their complexity or because we don’t properly see all the ramifications of our decisions, and those cases which seems like a deliberate obfuscation or plain lie. There are cases of blatant government censorship and laws that seems invented only to obstruct journalists from telling the truth – be it about companies or politicians. Sometimes the ethical challenges are universal, sometimes they are entirely unique to the country in question.

Could there possibly be international interest in a website that focuses on the whole breadth of such challenges? I actually think there would be, seeing how the journalistic community, and that of media academics, tend to be very interested in ethical issues pertaining to journalism in general.

I’m not entirely certain about the best form a website dedicated to such a project should take, and how it best should be achieved in terms of organisation, but I do think a combination of original, case-based, content and RSS-feeds + tool kits could work very well. In either case, it will be interesting to follow the MediaAct-project to see how it evolves.

NB: I'm a bit late blogging about this as I picked up a strep infection at the airport on the way back from Bristol, and went straight from two weeks of strep-induced downtime to moving etc.

The modern newsagent

Modern newsagents are diversifying as quickly as they can it seems. I just came across this fascinating photo I snapped last year because I was stunned by how many different services and goods this London newsagent sold. Is there a parallel here to the media industry? Should there be more of a parallel than there is? In either case, I find it a fascinating photo to contemplate:  


22/7: The frontpages commemorating last year's twin terror attacks on Oslo and Utøya

Last year Norway experienced the worst peacetime massacre in modern Norwegian history, these are some of the frontpages the country woke up to today - one year later to the day.

I kind of think the more minimalistic ones are the strongest ones, I especially like Aftenposten and VG's.

These were the frontpages Norway woke up to on 23 July 2011, the morning after the shocking twin terror attacks on Oslo and Utöya 22 July had left 77 people dead and others severely wounded.


Aftenposten: "You will never be forgotten"



VG: "Hope"



Dagsavisen: "Back from the darkness"



VG: "Hope", Dagbladet: "Dad's grief"


Regional goes digital first behind paywall

As of next week you have to subscribe to the print version of Schibsted Norway's regional Faedrelandsvennen if you want to read the full online version. 

The good news is that print subscribers get full access to all content regardless of the platform, and all content will be available for them online first.

The bad news is that you need to subscribe to the print paper to be able to access anything but a limited selection of news online. Oh, and ads will feature both on paid for and free online news, though the newspaper promises more "local and relevant ads" behind the paywall.

The backdrop is dwindling print subscriptions and an increase in non-paying online readership - as for so many other newspapers. So can forcing those who want full online access to subscribe to the print paper put the genie back into the bottle?

Personally I very much doubt it, though it has to be said I'm not your average media consumer. I consume a lot of media daily, but most of it online or on a mobile device such as iPad or smartphone.

I love nothing better than to huddle up with with all the print papers on a lazy weekend or on a long train journey, but I've normally got little time for print on weekdays - it will just end up cluttering my home, and I'd rather read the iPad version when time is an issue (this is also related to me mostly working from home - so no commute most days, and I kind of prefer mobile news for short commutes anyway).

As a result, bundling print with the online and iPad versions is the opposite of a sales argument for me.

This is why I won't subscribe to the iPad version of Schibsted-owned Aftenposten which bundles it with the print newspaper. I grew to like Aftenposten on iPad while testing it, but getting the print paper every day is just too much paper - and the bundled package too expensive.

Perhaps it's a good deal for a family fighting between each other to read the newspaper every morning, but for me it's a no go. So me, I'm sticking to my daily routine of skimming through VG's iPad version and Flipboard (with Google reader, Media Guardian,, all my favourite tweeps and other favourites) first thing every morning.

I might get a few more news and media apps too, even paid ones, but no more print papers on weekdays.

It will be very interesting to see how Faedrelandsvennen's experiment plays out though. More on the experiment here (in Norwegian)

For the record, VG has been my main client for the last year and a half+, but I'd like to think this is irrelevant to this topic as the argument here is to do with pricing and bundling various platforms only

Controversy over covering Anders Behring Breivk trial divides Norway

The Breivik-trial has taken live-coverage to a new level, but Norwegians are divided on whether it is a scandal or a blessing the testimony and examination of the mass mass murderer cannot be broadcasted.

In the internet age, don’t we have a right to go to directly to the source, to see for ourselves, to make up our own minds ?

Especially when the evidence in question is that of the man responsible for the worst peace time massacre in modern Norwegian history? If society is deprived of this opportunity, are we not running the risk of interpretations and claims of biased reporting taking the place of facts?

Or is it the other way around: are we running a greater risk of creating copy cats if this bit of the trial is broadcasted, and are we not just providing him with a stage to spread his gospel of hate?

These and similar questions are at the centre of a big controversy surrounding the coverage of the trial against Anders Behring Breivik, the man responsible for slaying 77 people in the twin terror attacks on Norwegian government headquarters in Oslo and a Labour Party youth camp on Utöya 22 July 2011.

Even now, as the trial is about to enter its fourth week, the heated debate has not abated.

In its first week, had a good round-up of many of the ethical issues for journalists covering the trial, in which I’m interviewed. The story outlines some of the biggest legal issues involved. But this story poses so many interesting and troubling questions that I thought it interesting to delve more into some of the arguments.

One of those who is frustrated by not being able to see the examination of Breivik for himself, with his own eyes, is Norwegian author Ingvar Ambjörnsen.

In his VG column after the first week of the trial he describes how he travelled to Norway from his home in Berlin especially to see the court room examination. But, he writes (my unofficial translation):

"I’m not allowed to hear him. I’m not allowed to see him explain his actions. What I’m served is reports and impressions from the inner circle of Breivik-initiateds, from guests especially invited to see this grotesque drama. People who tell us how terrible he is, and how happy we can be that we can still live in a kind of world of innocence."

Ambjörnsen feels it is important to see for himself how the mass murderer comes across so he "can forget him".

Another Norwegian author, Karl Over Knausgaard, echoes this sentiment in a piece for New York Times: "…to get an impression of the nature of a person, one has to see him in motion. So much is contained in the posture of the body, the position of the hands, the movement of the eyes."

"The image of journalists and different experts commenting a running (and censored) text on the left the image, is a shame we cannot live with. It’s a historical error," Ambjörnsen concludes.

Here Ambjörnsen is referring to a major innovation in how Norwegian online newspapers are covering the trial. Several have developed their own "live windows" with a mix of features.

VG’s live window (screengrabs below) - whose coverage I’ve followed most closely and found myself totally captivated by - features a word by word transcript of what’s being said, a moderated Twitter-feed and live video - frequently of interviews with experts commenting on what’s happening inside the court room as little of the proceedings can be broadcasted.

From the first day:




It is this latter aspect, the massive use of experts by all media – both on live-tv and in other formats such as in op-eds, on radio and tv and in print – which has left many people feeling uncomfortable.

The Norwegian Editor’s Association has campaigned to be able to broadcast the trial, and at the start of the trial’s editor-in-chief, Espen Egil Hansen, said:

"I think everyone should get a chance to hear and see what is happening in court. We who are present in the court room get at a very different impression of how Breivik is exposed in court. To me, he appears pathetic, you don’t get the same impression when you are only reading a text."

The editor of the trade journal for Norwegian journalists, Helge Ögrim, has taken the contrarian view, arguing that those arguing against the broadcasting ban, fail to pay heed to the counterarguments. Among those:

  • Psychologists have argued that those under the age of 16 run a great risk of getting psychological reactions and traumas from watching the trial, something broadcasting the trial would increase the risk of.
  • Broadcasting would place the next of kin and those directly effected by the terror attacks under a heavier load.
  • It would be ethically dubious to broadcast the testimony of someone who two of the main court psychiatrists on the case thinks is a paranoid schizophrenic.
  • Broadcasting his testimony would give Breivik a dubious platform to spread his gospel of hate.  

However, are we really served with only getting this trial against a man who created a national trauma with the atrocities he committed last summer through the eyes of a league of experts?

In an op-ed published in Aftenposten a communication advisor, Stefan Brunvatne, who was present at the start of the trial, wrote:

"While the commentators are crawling over each other in their efforts to paint a picture of an incoherent man who is sitting there, giving us insight into evil incarnated, and 'experts' make critical comments on everything from his body language to his historical facts, Anders Behring Breivik is sitting there in the eye of the storm appearing surprisingly calm and collected.

"For someone who has been present at two of the key days during Breivik’s testimony, Friday 20 April and Monday 23 April, the shocking thing is not Breivik’s behaviour but the discrepancy between it and the monster image painted by the media."

Part of the challenge here is how difficult the trial is to cover. Norwegian war correspondent Aasne Seierstad has said it is much more difficult to cover a case she herself feels so affected by, like the Breivik-trial, than being a war correspondent. "Unfortunately it seems easier to work with stories you have a journalistic distance to," Seierstad, who is writing a book about the trial, told VG.

As Breivik told the court how he regretted not having killed more people, and described his plan to decapitate a former Norwegian prime minister, in the first week of the trial, even foreign correspondents present at the trial expressed their horror on Twitter at what they had just heard .

Daniel Bennett has written an interesting post on the dilemmas of allowing live-coverage via Twitter while banning broadcasting.

Could it be that Norwegian commentators and journalists are too affected by the trial to be objective? Or is the very idea of trying to be objective in case like this ludicruos in itself? So many questions, so few ready answers.

Max Fisher has argued in The Atlantic that Norway does what the US didn’t dare to do with Khaleid Sheikh Mohammed, the assumed mastermind behind 9/11. The Breivik-trial can teach Americans that transparancy hurts terrorism (via @svelle, no direct link available).

Many Norwegians will argue that the trial is still not transparent enough.

However, according to NRK, those desperate to see the trial with their own eyes, may get to see parts of Breivik’s testimony by taking a trip to The National Archieves a year after the trial finishes to see the parts of the video records that are not deemed too sensitive (people may e.g. get to see the parts where Breivik talks about his political and ideological motives).

How to transition from legacy media culture to the digital world

The short answer? Be agile and well-managed. Here’s how.

Of course, I don’t have all the answers. Not by far. But this month’s report by Pew Research Centre’s Project for Excellence in Journalism on the efforts and failings of newspapers to grow their digital businesses had me thinking about some insights I’ve had while working for Schibsted-owned

"It’s not a revenue problem, it’s a culture problem," Matthew Ingram and others concluded from reading the Pew report. Incidentally, cultural inertia – and the explanations for its presence or absence – has always fascinated me (see e.g. previous posts here, here, here and here).

So it was with great fascination I went from writing about Verdens Gang (VG), a media company much acclaimed for its innovative approach and profitable digital operations, as a media journalist,  to writing for it about a year and a half ago.

It is, as Frédéric Filloux argued last week, easy to lecture on how to solve the cultural challenges of legacy media from afar (though it could just as well be argued that you easily can become so entrenched in this legacy culture you struggle to see it from the outside).

And while it is true that I’ve co-founded and been the driving force behind building up Norwegian Online News Association (NONA) and a few other start-ups and projects,  I’m not going to claim any major management experience –especially not when it comes to legacy media (where I have zero).

However, I’m a keen observer, have a special interest in organisational culture and have worked for a wide range of different media companies over the last decade+

What’s especially struck me about is how the company combines a well-run, professional organisation with a structure that allows it to mimic some of the key features of small, nimbler start-ups.

A few key characteristics:

  • Short way from idea to execution
  • Programmers in the newsroom
    This is one reason why that way from idea to execution can be short. Also, the company has few walls between IT and the newsroom. In particular, has a designer and a journalist-programmer who are 100% dedicated to news related innovation, they’re not just on loan when IT doesn’t need them, and they each have that 20 per cent innovation time Google is famous for baked into their job descriptions.
  • Helping readers help each other
    One of the best examples of the value of having programmers in the newsroom was during the ash cloud crisis, when someone had the genius idea for the Hitchhiker’s Central  - and it only took 6-7 hours to program and get up and running. The site certainly saved my day, and that of contributing editor Colin Meek, as I explained in a blog post at the time. I’m particularly fond of this notion of VG using its position as Norway’s most read news site to design solutions to help readers help each other (there are numerous other examples) as a form of service journalism (as described in this column).
  • Speed
    Some of the most successful of the company’s editorial innovations are made on the basis of the idea that you have to move fast, it doesn’t have to be perfect – just get it out there, then improve as you go along.
  • A Goolesque-attitude to trying out new things
  • Kill things before they die a slow and painful death
    It goes with the territory: Trying sometimes means failing, and even a massive success can have a limited time span and may need to be abandoned before it becomes a liability. Social network Nettby is a good example. At one stage it was by far the biggest social network in Norway, and it was profitable (as I described in this post for, but it was eventually eclipsed by Facebook – and killed off towards the end of 2010.
  • A willingness to cannibalise your own products.
    Okay, I read this, in a very interesting American report on Schibsted which is quite old by now, but it rings true and is still worth reading. How will this be affected when VG now is merging its print and online operations? I don’t know, but there’s lots of food for thought in that report.  
  • Good management,  good routines (on everything from press ethics to payment) and  clear leadership.

The last bullet point is especially important.

If you’re a two-three person start-up it’s easy to play by ear, be flexible etc – too much structure might even get in the way. But on the road to success most start-ups reach a stage where they need to get those routines in place in order to operate efficiently. In some respects, it’s the price of success.

And in a big organisation good routines make all the difference – in a creative one, it frees you up to be creative.

I’m not quite sure how to phrase this, but I’ve seen it in so many (media) companies:

A well-run organisation facilitates a good, consistently creative and innovative work environment in ways a badly run one, or one where management is absent or erratic, simply cannot match. The contribution of good PAs, accountants, administrators are highly undervalued, and clear leadership makes a huge difference,

I think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is relevant here as well: just as it’s easier for an individual who’s very existence is not constantly under threat, who’s got all his or her basic needs covered, to be creative and innovative, it’s easier to be so if you don’t constantly worry about getting paid on time, what to expect of the management next or whether or not you have a job tomorrow.

At a news:rewired-event in January 2009 professor and head of journalism at City University, George Brock, said that his title shouldn’t be professor of journalism, but professor of chaos history.

Most journalists have become very adapt at living with daily (news and production) chaos, but dealing with it creatively becomes easier when you don’t have to deal with it at management level too. I’ve previously put together some musings on how this affects innovation here.

Now, in the above, I’ve mostly described my impressions of how deals with editorial innovation. I have no direct experiences of how this works on the commercial side of the business, but my impression is that the culture is much the same in that department too.

The big question is how this culture will fare when the company’s print and digital operations now are merged.  I don’t know enough  of that process to answer, but given all of the above I think it has decent chances of surviving intact.

I may of course be a bit biased here, and none of those things I describe take away the very real management challenges that Filloux describe in his post on newspaper culture.

But I do think that what I describe show that there are ways, even for a very old newspaper such as VG, to break away from the legacy culture - although I have no illusions about it being easy.  Also, there are bound to be other newspaper organisations combining some or most of the above, VG just happens to be a company I’ve been privileged to gain more insight into.

Update 30.03.2012:'s Lucas Weldeghebriel explained more in detail how the news site has created an organisational structure to facilitate editorial innovation at a recent NONA-meeting. Read the headlines from his talk here (in Norwegian).

The Icelandic soap opera continues

 In December 2008, angry protesters branded both Geir Haarde, Iceland’s then prime minister, and David  Oddsson, then head of the country’s central bank, as «Iceland’s bin Laden» - blaming them in equal parts for the country’s complete financial meltdown (see my photos below).

Now, the former could face criminal charges for the global financial meltdown, while the latter is one of two joint editors of Iceland’s newspaper of record, Morgunbladid.

How surreal is that?

According to The Daily Mail earlier this week:

Pall Hreinsson, the supreme court judge appointed to head the Special Investigation Commission that issued a government-commissioned report detailing the litany of mistakes made in the lead-up to the bank meltdown, singled out seven former officials including Mr Haarde and central bank chief David Oddsson for particular criticism.

No other officials besides Mr Haarde were referred for prosecution to the court.

Now, I was just going to dip into this story briefly.

I was fascinated by how things had turned out when I read the news about Haarde this week since I covered the Icelandic freesheet market extensively from 2006 – 2009/10 (media cross ownership being a particularly colourful story in the country, closely linked to the financial meltdown), and reported extensively from the dire situation in Icelandic media following the financial meltdown.  

But the twists and turns of this story are just too incredible.





I noticed that Olafur Stephensen, who was editor of Morgunbladid, considered to be the newspaper closest the conservative Independence party which Haarde and Oddsson both represent, had now become editor of Frettabladid. That is, Frettabladid the legendary freesheet so closely linked to Baugur. Just how close those links once were becomes obvious for all when reading this story on why Frettabladid’s former editor, Jon Kaldal, was fired.

For the record, I should say that I conducted long interviews with both Kaldal, then editor of Frettabladid, and Stephensen, then editor of Morgunbladid, when I was in Reykjavik working on my story on the crisis in Icelandic media in December 2008.

Both cast an interesting light on the many events leading up to the crisis.

At the time, Stephensen had not received his monthly salary and could only pray someone would rescue Morgunbladid so his salary would be paid before Christmas. 

But it is perhaps no wonder that the country’s newspaper economy, with its close links to major companies and banks, was struggling at the time seeing that the entire country was on the verge of financial collapse. 

(Media cross interests and cross ownership on Iceland was so extensive at the time that it still makes my head spin, but an Icelandic tabloid editor I spoke to explained it in clear terms thus: ” You know, the sugar daddy behind DV and Fréttablaðið was Baugur, but the sugar daddy behind Morgunbladid was Björgólfur Guðmundsson? … Now everyone is on his or her own because our sugar daddies are dead” )

According to Gylfi Magnússon, a University of Iceland economist who gave witness to the Landsdómur trial of former Icelandic Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde on Friday, the Central Bank of Iceland effectively went bankrupt in October 2008 when its board decided to loan Kaupþing Bank EUR 500 million in an effort to save the latter.

He explained that although the Central Bank said at the time that the loan represented only a fifth of its foreign capital reserves, in reality most of that money was not readily accessible.

Gylfi was drafted in to the minority government from February 2009, after Geir Haarde resigned, as an un-elected expert commerce and trade minister (Icenews has more on this latter story)

Okay, I’ll stop there. I could easily see myself moving temporarily to Reykjavik to write a book on all this, but I expect those books already have or are being written.

Schibsted looks to Apple for new payment solution

If paying would be as easy as across various devices as with iTunes, would readers feel more inclined to pay for editorial content and classifieds?

Apple has introduced a new standard for paying for content, which makes most other payment solutions look unnecessarily complicated in comparison.

The media’s dream of making a fortune on the back of that, on devices such as iPhone and iPad, has not turned out to quite as quick and easy to implement as many hoped, but what if media could emulate Apple’s pay-with-a-click revolution with their own similar solutions?

These days Schibsted, according to, is rolling out an Apple-inspired payment solution, named SPiD, for all its many digital platforms. SPiD will be set up to remember you if, say you first log in on Schibsted’s Norwegian tabloid VG to read something and then go to Schibsted’s classifieds site to advertise something for sale.

In January, Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet became the first Schibsted-paper to start using the service, VG is to start using it this month and the company’s other media houses and classified sites are due to follow.

- The idea is that it will work as simply as iTunes with a «click here» to pay, Sverre  Munck, Schibsted’s executive vice president of strategy and international editorial, told Kampanje.

That sounds good to me.

Apple’s «pay-with-a-click» has certainly made me buy quite a bit of stuff, mostly eBooks via Kindle, I might not have otherwise bought. It’s now much easier to buy a book than a chocolate on a whim, not entirely a good thing for a booklover such as myself (or at least not for my budget).

But the price and content for sale must be right. Schibsted has had success with the paid-for section of, Aftonbladet Pluss though, and I think its pricing strategy for e.g. the tablet edition of VG has been pretty spot on too. They’ve kept the price low (about £5 a month) and not been tempted to bundle it with print as several other Norwegian media companies have.

Maybe it’s a different picture for families, but I can’t see the point of subscribing to both the iPad and print editions, as I only read the latter properly during weekends. But then again, I might also be biased (for the record: Schibsted-owned VG has been my main client for the last year and a half).

Rude tweet hits six o’clock news

Now, what did you have to do again in the good old days to get yourself on the evening news? These days all it takes is a tweet.

Arguably it might take what most people would call a tweet too far, but still… This week I was invited to discuss what is probably the most shocking tweet I’ve come across on a six o’clock news show  – with the guy who wrote it and a few others.

The set-up was somewhat surreal:

Last Sunday a far-left-wing journalist-author wrote the mentioned tweet in reply to the debate editor of Norway’s newspaper of record, Aftenposten.

The latter had  recently written a short and scalding, if still civilised, review of the former’s recent book.

To which the former replies to the openly gay editor with a tweet that somehow manages to include such phrases as ”suck negro cock” and ”jewish cunt”  in the same tweet.

The political editor of Aftenposten replies with a harsh leader on the implied racism in that tweet and he, the tweet-writer, the head of Norway’s Union of Journalists and me are invited to discuss the affair on the before mentioned evening news show.

It should be mentioned that the guy who wrote the offending tweet was quick to apologise on Twitter, but on the evening news we also learned that the tweet was meant as a joke and was paraphrasing a scene from a Norwegian movie (”facts” which had entirely escaped me before that session on the evening news).

Aftenposten’s political editor made the very fair point that had this tweet been sent by someone from the populist far right it would have created a media upheaval, and the news presenter tried to get a discussion going on whether journalists should be allowed to tweet privately...

Now, imagine: Journalist says something stupid, rude and racist on TV? Should we therefore ban all journalists from TV? Of course not, and no one was seriously suggesting during that TV slot to ban journalists from using social media privately either – but it was one of the topics being discussed, as well as all the awful kind of things people can bring themselves to say online…

I must admit I’m not quite sure what to conclude from all this, it was a somewhat surreal event, but it’s definitely part of that brave new media landscape of ours…