Ideas and think pieces that still stick from the year gone by – on burnout, the environment, long term thinking, media and more

As an experiment, what about looking at the think pieces and ideas that still stick from 2023 – rather than the newest new thing or predicting trends that may or may not come to pass?

For me, some of the articles I still think about, that still resonate from last year focus on issues such as sustainable success, cognitive overload and how to protect against it, neuroscience, long term thinking, journalists traumatized by work, the end of platforms, the environment – and how burned out people will keep burning down the planet.

In other words, I’m thinking of the big picture and how we can better equip ourselves for meeting the many complex problems we face today in a sustainable way – both on the micro and macro level, both as individuals and through companies, organsations and societies.

And as for burnout, I’m not planning to get on a high horse here – I’ve had at least one major burnout early in life, probably a few smaller ones later, and I learnt valuable lessons from it all - but I read this poignant and moving post on the topic in December, one that still resonates with me.

I attended a deeply fascinating debate on consciousness, work culture and work life at the start of December (expertly  organized by Guro Røberg), and stumbled across this piece by one of the eloquent panelists, Snorre Vikingsen, published on the same day, on why he crashed and why that was a good thing (Linkedin):

“How Ironic. Giving a talk on the business of burning out, advocating for a more balanced working culture, and not realizing that I was at the brink of burnout myself,” he wrote.

“Burned out people will keep burning up the planet’ is a slogan highlighting the interconnectedness of human health and planetary stewardship coined by Ariana Huffington. In a nutshell it connects humanity’s inability to create environmental sustainability with work pressure and the exhausting performance mindset.

“How can we create great conditions on the outside If we are unable to create great conditions on the inside?... Burnout symptoms affect cognitive functions, especially the prefrontal cortex, which governs long-term decision-making.” Full post here (on Linkedin).

Or as Huffington wrote herself: “When we’re burned out, exhausted and depleted, we operate on short-termism and day-to-day survival, just trying to get through the day, or even just the next hour. We’re not just less able to create new and more sustainable habits, we’re also unable to think about the future, make the wisest decisions for the long term and come up with creative and innovative solutions to complex challenges — like climate change.”

This reminds me of an old, favorite quote of mine, often misattributed to Ghandi: “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another,” Chris Maser, Forest Primeval: The Natural History of an Ancient Forest

A few main issues here are short-termism, cognitive overload and the interconnectedness of human health and planetary stewardship – or the interconnectedness of everything, if you like.

Adam Tinworth wrote well on this in his piece on how “Long-term thinking is our best weapon against the permacrisis”.

“The major part of the pandemic’s impact on our lives is now over. So, why aren’t we truly back to long-term thinking? Well, sadly, crisis became permacrisis. Even as the worst of the pandemic wound down, the sudden outbreak of war in Europe and its impact on supply chains and energy supply kept us focusing on the now. We had a new problem to manage, a new crisis to resolve.

It kept us reactive.”

Or, in Johann Hari’s words:

“As a species, we are facing a slew of unprecedented tripwires and trapdoors – like the climate crisis – and, unlike previous generations, we are mostly not rising to solve our biggest challenges. Why? Part of the reason, I think, is that when attention breaks down, problem-solving breaks down. Solving big problems requires the sustained focus of many people over many years."

The quote is from his book “Stolen focus: Why you can’t pay attention”, which I read, enjoyed and blogged about last year (in Norwegian). The book has been portrayed as a book on how social media is stealing our focus, but it’s basically looking at how social media is ONE of many things potentially stealing our focus and undermining our concentration – AND how to reclaim it.

That last bit, about how to reclaim it, is equally important, especially after the digital overload of the pandemic world.

And the answer does of course not have to mean to abstain from all the things potentially stealing our focus – but to be aware of the challenges, balance use, find more chunks of time for uninterrupted work etc.

Another way to phrase that is to lead a more balanced life, be more conscious and restrictive of your media / social media consumption etc. That’s not always easy as a journalist, as being up to speed on things can be such a big focus of your work.

It may seem odd to a non-journalist, but I remember having to wean myself off stuff like watching terrorist attacks unfolding live on Twitter (by way of Twitter updates) back when I moved on to a non-journalism job.

Twitter, back in its heyday, was such an excellent tool for keeping up on unfolding news of that kind.

But what kind of content and the amount of it we consume will of course impact us. To an extent you can use techniques to counterbalance it all, but it’s vital to be conscious of the impact and how to alleviate it.

That is why another great read from last year was Joanna Geary’s post on resiliency and leadership:

“Working my way up in local news, I met so many people traumatised by the work. From the reporter who relayed to me harrowing details of arriving to victims of a house fire before emergency services; or the editors who learned it was not ok to talk about the stress of doing more with less so instead turned to alcohol or painkillers among other things.

“When it comes to supporting people in news, we could and should have done a lot better sooner. But we didn’t." She goes on to offer sage advice on ways to address this.

On this topic, Headlines Network founder Hannah Storm gave an excellent talk on how newsroom leaders need to step up their commitments on mental health and wellbeing of staff (I was also delighted to be able to stream her talk on a similar topic at the Perugia Journalism Festival):

“Everybody's emotional load varies, but many colleagues tell me they are exhausted. Burnout is classed by the World Health Organisation as an occupational hazard, and it is forcing people to leave our industry…

“…Sadly, one of the most common concerns I hear from colleagues – anywhere – is they are still scared that admitting they are distressed will prevent them from getting the next promotion, or story. And yet, it can be transformational for all of us when people feel safe sharing their stories.” Ultimately, trauma in the aftermath of a terror attack was a major reason why I left journalism for my current job - so it’s so good to see people like Storm address these issues.

Then there was this piece on Psykologisk.no on energy, “Burnout - a consequence of a very good life?” (in Norwegian):

“Unfortunately, and fortunately, we are designed so that we can pull the energy master card and use more energy than we actually have when the going gets tough. But borrowed energy also has sky-high interest rates," the author wrote.

That’s hardly controversial.

But he argues that spending energy on “healthy” things like working out or hanging out with friends to compensate for things like a demanding job and a demanding family life may not work – that you ultimately cannot get energy by spending energy. Nor, he argues, can healthy habits prevent burnout if you commit to way too much in too many areas of life.

Perhaps all this is self-evident, but the article offered plenty of food for thought for me. For me, a thing like exercise is certainly a source of energy and something that feels essential to a good life – but yes, I have overdone that as well, so I guess it’s all about the overall balance.      

Another big topic I keep reflecting on, more related to my professional life, is the end of platforms. It’s easy to quip that this may solve the issue of social media stealing focus, except of course we’re just moving into a more fragmented social media landscape. Another way to look at it is, as Kevin Anderson wrote in this insightful piece “The Platform Era is ending, and the AI era is just beginning”.

Incidentally, ALL of the media debates I attended, and blogged about, last year was on AI – not to mention this brilliant one just before Christmas (in Norwegian).

But in addition to its many benefits, AI raises a whole new set of challenges – not at least, from an environmental perspective, considering how much energy it consumes. That is, if not new research, such as this on Atomic Layer Depostion (in Norwegian), comes to the rescue.

This is all in addition to all the other challenges we face ahead: Europe’s water crisis: how supplies turned to ‘gold dust’ (FT, paywall), the crisis in earth quality (in Norwegian), in biodiversity, the wars, the state of the world…

So many hard, complex challenges to solve – we really need full focus, undivided attention, and health to be able to tackle these... 

BrightonHorizonSea


New AI-powered title generator and how journalists won’t be replaced by AI, but by journalists who can utilize AI

A few quick tidbits on AI and journalism, based on a recent seminar arranged by The Norwegian Online News Association (NONA) on Norwegian media and AI.

New AI-powered title generator

On the day of the debate, Labrador CMS announced the launch of its advanced AI-powered title generator at the PPA Festival held on Tuesday, April 25, at The Brewery in London – a UK version of the story, Journalisten.no on the launch (Labrador is lead by key former NONA-folks)

“A few thousand reporters will soon have direct access to machine learning writing support in CMS. This is one of the coolest things by delivering a SaaS Publishing Platform. When we roll out new functions, we do it to all customers. The latest function is to integrate directly with Open AI and suggest better titles to the story and then automatically send them to A/B test,” said Jan Thoresen, CEO, Labrador CMS.

“Journalists won’t be replaced by AI, but by journalists who know how to utilize AI,” laughed Inga Strümke, Associate professor in AI at NTNU and author of a popular, recently published, and currently sold out, book on AI “Maskiner som tenker”, at the end of her talk at the NONA-event.

Though it seems from the debate (which I watched via live stream) this might have been a conclusion derived from, or shared with, other key people in the audience (such as Torgeir Waterhouse) before the debate. You can still see the live stream on Facebook here, though the debate is in Norwegian (starts roughly 15-16min into the recording)

She also said the recent call to pause AI development is an ineffective way of dealing with the issue, but that we are in dire need of proper regulation of AI. She said the EU’s proposed AI act is an interesting piece of proposed legislation to follow in this respect.

As of last Thursday, Strümke's non-fiction book on AI was in fact Norway's most selling book.

Another interesting thought I made a note of from the seminar was this:

“I think there’s a lack of wider journalism about AI. Now it's being covered as a cool new thing. But I’m concerned with how it is already affecting us – e. g. Snapchat's My AI is in the pockets of very many people now, also very many young people. What kind of effects does it have?,” said Janni Frederiksen Kalafatis, UX lead in Schibsted-owned VG. Among other things, he’s been central to the development of the transcription tool JOJO and AI-generated article summaries.

As a former tech reporter I always thought covering tech should be about a lot more than just the cool new, new thing/gadget and its specifications: technology and the way it is used has so many ramifications for society as a whole (not only new tech, but also old and bad IT solutions that we’ve seen get in the way of effective legislation or even effective health care).

So it will be vital to see journalism about AI move beyond the new cool thing phase. In fact, I have read about international media hiring AI reporters. Googling, I find Muck Rack has this list of 10 top AI in 2023 – and it seems like a good list to explore. Speaking for myself, I am only familiar with the work of Madhumita Murgia, AI editor at Financial Times, as of writing.

IngaStrumkeFotoMonaHauglidKaggePressebilder

Inga Strümke, Photo: Mona Haugli / Kagge Forlag


The newspaper using AI to clone the voice of a journalist to make journalism more accessible

Schibsted-owned Aftenposten has used AI to «clone» the voice of one of its journalists and podcasters.

The project started when the newspaper was working on Aftenposten Junior, a digital news service specially developed for students in primary school where, due to strict accessibility requirements, text to speech was business critical.

The result is an AI voice with unlimited possibilities. Product director Karl Oskar Teien and product manager Lena Beate Hamborg Pedersen talked about the project at a recent meeting of the Norwegian Online News Association (NONA). Journalisten.no has an article about the project here (in Norwegian). Some quick notes:

  • 5-8% in Norway have reading difficulties, so we believe this is an important democratic project
  • Video streaming eats up more and more of the market, and the battle for users' attention year by year
  • Scarcity of information: The newspaper used to be portal to the world. Now: Information overload – lots of sources, too little time.
  • We’ve gone from from local physical distribution to global digital distribution
  • Visual attention - reading on paper and screen
  • Audio attention – screen-free news consumption
  • More people are listening and each individual is listening more to online audio (all audio that is not radio).
  • More and more people are using AirPods and other earplugs
  • We are seeing more and more audio startups - one of the biggest augmented reality offerings available today. Sound facilitates more multitasking and less screen time
  • Correlation between listening and customer loyalty: Aftenposten has a strong position in audio and podcasts. 200k users now pay for podcast.
  • Challenges in scaling up sound production - e.g. costs, time, prediction, updates (news is fresh)
  • Text to speech can be a solution (opposite of speech to text) = unlimited output and available everywhere
  • Our ambition is for all of Aftenposten's journalism to be made available in audio format
  • The technology we use: BeyondWords
  • Used Anne Lindholm's voice, at the time she was the presenter of "Explained"
  • We have had a robot trainer who has worked with this - a student who sat and listened
  • Sound resonates better with younger target groups
  • Users who listen complete more of the article
  • Possibilities going forward: playback from the front page, playlists for different needs, play my saved articles, etc
  • This is groundbreaking work both legally and technically.
  • Has, among other things, a contract with Anne Lindholm which states that the voice should only be used in editorial and not commercial products.

Norwegian media and artificial intelligence in practice: AI-powered transcription and market services

The debate about artificial intelligence (AI) and how it will reshape various industries has exploded as of late, especially after the launch ChatGPT. Here are some ways AI is being put to use by Norwegian media, as discussed during a recent meeting of the Norwegian Online News Association (NONA).

Teknisk Ukeblad (TU) Media has developed its own AI-powered tool to transcribe audio recordings and to  subtitle videos based on Whisper from OpenAI, supported by programming in Java and Phyton.

Every day, the tool saves hours of work in the newsroom.

TU is currently focusing on how to improve the tool's speed, which of course is critical when people are out working in the field and video and/or audio needs to be published quickly. Eirik Helland Urke, responsible for photo, video and multimedia at TU and developer Sebastian Hagemo gave an interesting introduction on this.

Schibsted-owned VG has also developed an AI-based transcription tool – and will soon make it available in AppStore. Johannes Gorset, director of engineering at VG, told the meeting how the tool, “JOJO”, saves journalists hours of work – and promised that VG soon will make it available for everyone to download via AppStore and run on ones own servers.

Interestingly, in the early stage of developing this tool the programmers experimented with using Amazon Sweden cloud storage, which of course didn’t provide the necessary security for protecting sources. This is essentially why VG created an app: to ensure that the solution runs locally and is secure.

This is, of course, is of vital importance when working with major investigative podcasts on issues such as true crime or other controversial topics such as VG has had great success with.

Journalisten.no has an interesting article on JOJO, written with the help of JOJO.

At financial daily Dagens Næringsliv (DN), language models are used to strengthen DN Investor, the newspaper's stock exchange and market service.

Martin Kermit, Head of Data Science at DN-owner DN Media Group, told the audience how large amounts of text are analyzed using natural language technology (NLP) to strengthen DN Investor, the media house's stock exchange and market service - which combines share prices with journalism.

Users get access to share prices on the Oslo Stock Exchange together with news about developments in the markets.

The service also contains a number of useful tools, such as notifications when something special happens on topics the users follow.

AI is used to (quick notes):

  • Automatically identify companies on the Oslo Stock Exchange mentioned in a DN article (and only relevant companies). This is based on Natural language processing (NLP). It’s a challenge that NLP is not necessarily so steady in Norwegian, so DN has collaborated with Nowegian media company Amedia on developing language models based on the framework spaCy, as well as language information from Nome and NDT. The NLP language model is trained using the content of these two media groups. Most important component: Named entity recognition (NER). Practical use: integration in the CMS - it's implemented as a plugin in Dr. Publish (the CMS DN.no runs on). The company is added automatically, the reporter has the option of editing.
  • DN has several projects with NLP language technology: Automatic categorization of news, article recommendations for further reading etc.

Interestingly: The language model must be constantly updated with new words, e.g., corona - when the pandemic hit, the tool was just unable to decipher that word.

Disclosures: I’ve co-founded and was the founding president of NONA and am of course a big fan of their work even though I no longer have any official role in the organization. I’ve also worked for VG and Journalisten


The Humanoid Future of Journalism

NB: Written in 2018: - We’ve seen a 25 per cent decrease of journalists in Sweden in recent years. There are no longer enough journalists to do what journalists should do, said Robin Govik, Chief Digital Officer at MittMedia.se, Sweden’s leading local media company at the annual conference of Norwegian Online News Association (NONA) in 2018.

In 2015 the company started experimenting with robot journalism.

Not necessarily to replace journalists with robots, but to broaden its coverage and provide coverage of things journalists wouldn’t normally cover or have the capacity to write a zillion stories on – such as all individual property sales in a given neighbourhood, the weather, local businesses and local sports matches (including in lower divisions   newspapers wouldn’t normally cover).

The company started its property service, where robots write all the copy, in September 2017, and within four months robots had written more than 10,000 articles on property sales.

According to a survey by MittMedia.se, conducted among 102 readers, 68 per cent of respondents said they didn’t notice articles had been written by a robot.

Among the reasons Govik thinks the future of journalism is humanoid, are the opportunities for personalisation and hyperlocal content.

More about the homeowners bot here, and in this video.

Govik gave a talk on a similar topic at this year’s SXSW in Austin, some highlights here.


NowThis: How to create great content that works for any platform

For video news publisher NowThis, social platforms have become even more important since the publisher effectively shut down its website early 2015. At a recent journalism event, NowThis-editor Sarah Frank talked about how to make content fly on various social platforms.

«NowThis, founded in 2012 by former Huffington Post and Buzzfeed veterans, already emphasized off-site distribution of its short-form, millennial-focused and mobile-optimized video clips, pushing content to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr and other networks,” when it shuttered its website in February 2015 (full story here).  

In many ways, this reflects how the media landscape is changing, as e.g. ex-Chartbeat CEO Tony Hail talked about at the annual conference of Norwegian Online News Association (NONA) last year, NONA16. Among other things, he said traffic to news sites increasingly come from social apps and people trust the apps more than they trust the stream:

“It causes trouble for how we think about the economics of content because content [in the media industry] has always been bundled… New companies with a very different cost base are starting to pop up, they don’t have their own sites – their strategy is just to be out there on the platforms.” (full post here)

NowThis is one such company, and at this year’s NONA conference, NONA17, NowThis’ Sarah Frank gave an inspiring talk on how to create successful content for various social platforms. Below are my notes from her talk:

Social Platforms 101:

  • Platforms are not just traffic generators or promotional tools. They are complex personalities and deserve focused attention.
  • Platforms have a purpose. They were built for something before publishers entered the equation.
  • Platforms are about people. The users are the most vital part of the narrative.
  • Listen to your audience. They tell you what they feel without explicitly telling you.
  • Find your voice. Personalities flourish on platforms, find yours.
  • Look at your worst practices. That’s where there is most room to improve.

So… what works where?

  • Facebook: Short, emotional, worthy of a share

“On Facebook, NowThis mostly does video - and shorter and shorter video. These days often 10-20 seconds.” On FB a view is 3 seconds into the video. Use A/B testing.

  • Twitter: Speed matters. Live events & reporting flourish. Mix of text, photo, video, gif. Can successfully link back to site.

“Breaking news works. Will often mix formats to stand out in the feed, especially in a situation with breaking global news you really need to stand out.”

  • Snapchat Discover: Highly visual, short quick headlines for 16-25 year olds

“I often joke that Snapchat Discover is like the Harry Potter-newspaper. It’s very resource demanding, most people I know who work with it have rings/bags under their eyes.”

  • Instagram: Highly visual, leans lifestyle, sourced from the platform.
  • YouTube: Deep dives, explainers, personality-driven.
  • Various “stories” products: Experiment! Personality driven, can link back.

To understand what works, think like a user:

  • Would I share this on my feed?
  • Do I actually care about this story?
  • What’s the most compelling part?
  • What emotion am I trying to convey?
  • How will I get users to finish and share?
  • And, if you wouldn’t share the story to your own feed it’s useful to ask yourself: why wouldn’t you?

"Emotions tend to drive shares on all platforms. There’s got to be some sort of reaction you had from the story that you can use when pushing it to an audience."

"It’s useful looking at where in the story you get bored."

As for the kind of employees NowThis is looking for, Frank said: "We are looking for employees who just “get” social, that is easiest to determine by just going to their social media feeds. My team members can do everything and what they don’t know how to do they’ll go figure as they like to learn. We look for digital natives but that’s not necessarily about age, it’s about mindset, and people who just “get” social. New media stars can write, shoot, do everything."

Editorial + data=BFFs

We began to have this editorial check list for what works and what doesn’t work. It enabled us to back away from topics that neither we nor our audience felt passionate about.

So get your programmers on your editorial team, our two teams go to lunch together and are in constant conversation via Slack etc.

Measure success by looking at failures:

  1. Focus on the bottom-performing stories and look for clues
  2. Have the right conversations
  3. Propose a solution
  4. Test
  5. Create best practices
  6. Repeat

When to join a new platform:

  1. Can we say something that feels right for the platform? Do we understand how users use the platform?
  2. Determine your goal. Traffic back to site? Engage new audiences? Just an experiment?
  3. Team bandwith. Determine the "lift" of testing on a new platform.
  4. It's okay to start small! Give someone a project... Start small. Start with 1-2 people, someone already dedicated to it.

A few other interesting points form Frank's talk:

Recently we brought on two people from Reported.ly, Andy Carvin and Kim Bui. And that’s amazing.

We have a slack-room called breaking news, the first person to spot something alert everyone.

When the terror attack in Manchester happened, everyone had left work. One of our producers who was at home recovering from tonsillitis cut the video like a champion, our news editor headed into our HQ like fast where we have the best internet connection and could redistribute etc, we had people going through social and checking for permissions etc. It was a big operation.

SarahFrankNona17


Defining a content strategy for a journalism start-up

Defining a content strategy is the hardest part when launching a new journalism start-up, according to the title of a speech at a recent journalism event. So just how do you go about creating a successful one?

Sebastian Horn is the founding editor and head of Ze.tt - a new online journalism platform by the publisher of Die Zeit and Zeit Online in Germany.

According to this piece by Nieman Journalism Lab, German legacy publishers are chasing millennial audiences by launching brand new, more targeted products. “We didn’t want to alienate core loyal readers with sudden content for younger audiences. So we started a whole other product to cater to young people where we can try new things, ‘move fast, and break stuff.'”

Horn, a former community and social media editor at Zeit Online, was brought in to create and manage one such brand: Ze.tt, launched in beta in July 2015. At the annual conference of the Norwegian Online News Association (NONA) recently, he shared some of his insights from building a journalism start-up and defining a successful content strategy.  

What we have learned at Ze.tt:

  • Deciding what NOT to do is key. E.g. We’re not on Snapchat Discover
  • Look at the data and use the insights for continuous development
  • Make sure your team understands your content strategy
  • Keep engaging with your users
  • Do what you love
  • Defining your content strategy is the hardest part.

Some of the questions your content strategy needs to answer:

  • What is your target audience?
  • What topics do you cover?
  • How do you excite your audience?
  • How much content do you publish?
  • How do you engage with your community? You should not ever launch anything without thinking through how you are going to engage with your users.
  • What is your voice as a brand?
  • What is your revenue model (this obviously influences your content strategy) ? At Ze.tt we’re still pretty old school, our revenue model is built on reach.
  • Who’s on your team – this should influence your content strategy heavily. The youngest on our team is 22, I’m 32 and one of the oldest on the team.
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Who is your inspiration?
  • How do you measure success? It’s important to define what success is: visits, influence, numbers, reach, engagement etc.

A successful story for Ze.tt

“With every story, we try to relate it to young people’s lives and what are they supposed to feel emotionally when they read the story,” Horn explained.

He added that stories about love, friendship, relations etc are the kind of stories Ze.tt is most successful with – and stories related to happiness “as there is a lot of anxiety in our society”, but Ze.tt sometimes also has success with political stories.

If one of its journalists has a good idea for a project, the management will often clear a week for a person to work with the project - e.g. to create a podcast.

A person in the audience, NRKbeta’s Anders Hofseth, asked Horn how being owned by an old, traditional publishing group was like.

“They are very happy with what we do, as so far we have been successful. As a start-up, you need to prove there’s a path to profitability, and, so far, we’ve proven that so they leave us alone for most of the time now,” said Horn.

He added that the biggest advantage with Ze.tt’s owner set-up, with being part of a big publishing group, is that you have all the support you need and can rely on an existing infrastructure and lots of expertise within the publishing group.  However, it is so important to protect a small, young team such as Ze.tt’s when it is growing, and Horn felt the best way to do that was by being separate operation (as Ze.tt is).


Female speakers you need at your next journalism event

Here are 10 female speakers that would be brilliant speakers for your next media event.

Recently I found my name on this amazing list of «103 speakers you need at your next journalism event to avoid all male panels», compiled by Journalism.co.uk’s Agbigail Edge.

I was very honoured to be included in such amazing company, I love the initiative «to relegate all-male panels to the Mad Men era where they belong» - and there are quite a few other names I would like to add to such a list.

Naturally, the list predominantly includes British and American speakers, but Abigail’s brilliant initiative had me thinking that we need such lists for Norway, Sweden and Denmark too, as: 1) Scandinavian, and especially Norwegian, media are at the forefront of online innovation, and 2) we have a lot of very competent female media leaders and speakers here.

I’ve started to make plans to create such a list for Norway with a collaborator or two, but in the meantime – here are  10 Norwegian female speakers who have impressed me while giving talks to an international audience on issues on or related to journalism and the changing media landscape.

I’ve had the privilege to hear a great many excellent Norwegian female speakers give inspiring talks on a wide range of issues, but for this purpose I’ve only included some who have impressed me while giving talks in English on, or related to, the media industry (I might easily have forgotten names here and hope to get back with a more thorough list later).

I must admit that when I started out as a journalist I often found myself in all-male newsrooms or other all-male settings and didn’t give this too much thought. But it became more and more apparent to me that there was a major issue to be addressed here when I was covering national and international media and tech conferences. Looking through my photos from these events they were almost exclusively photos of men in suits.

RichAndFamousMicIn other words, the speaker line-up of left a lot to be desired in terms of diversity, both in terms of the lack of women speakers but also in terms of more diverse speakers in general. It was also an issue I became increasingly more aware of when organising major media conferences myself when I was head of The Norwegian Online News Association (NONA).

Abigail’s list of «103 non-male speakers you need at your next journalism conference» includes two Norwegian women, Liv Håker-Ottesen, development editor of Sunnmørsposten, and myself. I was privileged enough to hear Liv give an impressive (and highly entertaining) talk during NONA16, just a day before this list was published, so it was great to see her high up on this list at no 16.

In addition, here are 10 other Norwegian women speakers who’ve impressed me while giving talks on the media industry or media related issues to an international audience:

  • Bente Kalsnes, PhD student researching social media and politics, long time blogger, media columnist for weekly newspaper Morgenbladet, former journalist and community editor, one of the founders of Girl Geek Dinners Oslo
  • Ida Jackson, advisor at Netlife Research, a content-driven digital design agency, author (including a book on social media), one of Norway’s best known bloggers, columnist for Dagbladet.
  • Ida Aalen, advisor and UX-expert at Netlife Research, columinst for Dagens Næringsliv’s media section, author of two books on social media, long time blogger, former board member of NONA
  • Hildegunn Soldal, digital development editor Dagbladet and Aller Media, former executive producer multimedia at The Guardian, former board member of NONA.
  • Jill Walker Rettberg, professor of Digital Culture, University of Bergen (UIB), author of several books on social media, long time blogger, worth following on Snapchat for news on social media research and how researchers can use Snapchat
  • Runa A. Sandvik, director of Information Security at The New York Times, Tor Advocate

Now this is to name but a few, just to get started. There are, as I mentioned, many more who should be on such a list – but I feel I need to get others involved in the project in order to make a more comprehensive list as we’re all shaped (and limited) by our experience, background and networks.

It must also be said that in a brilliant initiative, Women Speakers is continuously compiling an extensive list of Norwegian female speakers by way of crowdsourcing/self-reporting – and even though that list is more geared towards tech and marketing, that is absolutely an initiative to be inspired by.

Below, a shot from Ida Aalen (left) and Ida Jackson's (right) brilliant and inspiring talk during Webdagene 2014 on making a once doomed online encylopedia succeed online:

Webdagene2014: Ida & Ida om "Hvordan ta seg vann over hodet"


Ex-Chartbeat CEO: What data tells us about the world of platforms

The image that «crappy content» does well traffic wise is simply wrong, and how Facebook dominates traffic is changing user behaviour, the economics of content and more, said Tony Haile, former CEO of web analytics company Chartbeat, during a keynote in Oslo recently.

Haile, founding CEO of Chartbeat, recently gave a keynote  on «What data tells us about the world of platforms» during the annual conference of The Norwegian Online Association (NONA) in Oslo.

Today’s news that Facebook’s rise as a news source hits publisher’s revenue (and the annual report on digital news from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism) only makes some of the things Haile talked about more relevant, but as there was plenty of food for thought in his talk I’ll just leave you with a lightly edited version of my notes from the talk.

«There are five things media companies do: create, host, curate, distribute, monetize. Of these five, Facebook now does four. So it is worth thinking about what that means as we go forward as an industry,» Haile said, and went on:

No one metric to rule them all

One of the things we find is that when talking to analysts they say there is no one metric to rule them all. They have to use a lot of different metrics and put it all together, but when they tell that to the commercial side of things it is as if they are talking different languages.

Often the people on the commercial side talk of a singular metric, and they end up using just one metric as a report card and that causes problems.

One such «report card» is page views, and that causes problems – among other things because most page views get extremely short exposure and have a massive bounce rate.

Viewability restores your faith in humanity

With the onset of viewability [an online advertising metric that aims to track only impressions that can actually be seen by users], this created a big change on the ad side because it matters what people do after they click, it matters if they read the content.

And when you look at that overview you get when you measure such things, it restores your faith in humanity. If you look beyond clicks and look at what gets reads but not clicks, it gives you a very different dataset.

It’s about the kind of data you choose: If you’re actually looking at the data of what people are reading and what they’re engaging with you’ll find that the image that «crappy content» does well traffic wise is simply wrong.

Page views on its own is a very problematic metric.

Zero correlation between shares and reads

So what do we have if not page views? We have social media. But there is zero correlation between the amount of shares and the amount of reads, between what people share and what they read.

Haile shows us an article from The Atlantic from March 2015 that did really well traffic wise , «What ISIS really wants»,  and tells us 60% of the traffic came from mobile (which proves people will read long stories on mobile). There was a distinct long tale effect, the article saw new spikes in traffic after e.g. the Paris terror.

«Twitter doesn’t drive meaningful traffic»

Desktop and mobile is not zero sum. Facebook dominates traffic. Mobile traffic often equals social, and social often equals Facebook – Facebook utterly dominates.

This is often a challenge for the news industry as we like Twitter, but our audience is on Facebook. According to Haile, Twitter doesn’t drive meaningful traffic. Facebook gives instant traffic boost, but Google stabilises traffic over time.

Google owns the lulls (long tail)

The total amount of attention is the closest metric we come for measuring quality.

«Of these five things we do, distribution is now very much in the hands of Facebook – and it’s actually starting to change user behaviour on sites,» said Haile.

Chartbeat

People come from social apps and trust the apps more than they trust the stream, and that’s challenging.

Facebook changes the economics of content

It causes trouble for how we think about the economics of content because content [in the media industry] has always been bundled.

The rational for creating content which is uneconomic on its own, but is so important for media democracy,  starts to become challenging in this new landscape.

New companies with a very different cost base are starting to pop up, they don’t have their own sites – their strategy is just to be out there on the platforms.

We have to understand the power of the platforms. It may not be worthwhile to invest all that money in this shiny new CMS [Content Management System] anymore.

Your brand needs to be within the content itself

You have to think about the quantifiable value of your brand. The brand needs to be within the content itself, there is no use talking about a new logo or redesign when content can travel freely separate from your site.

The single most important thing you can to do is to nurture as many different platforms as possible as we’re increasingly moving to a platform world.

There is now a sneaking sympathy for those legacy media who have printing presses. If these trends continue, a lot of those things we have invested so heavily in in the media industry won’t have any value

The challenge for classic media companies is how to compete with these start-ups. Classic media companies’ infrastructure is increasingly becoming irrelevant. There are going to be new sorts of companies coming through

As a closing note, Haile said he is starting a new company this week.

«I think journalism is important for democracy but journalism isn’t being paid, and we have to solve that. I wonder if there is a broad-based solution for a subscription-based service where you’re not constantly distracted from the good content you want to read.»

More on Haile’s thoughts on the futility of the «click economy» here (via Ingeborg Volan).


What if no op-eds or letters to the editor were refused?

This Wednesday Schibsted-owned Aftenposten published all op-eds and letters to the editor that had been submitted within a 27 hour interval, both in print and online. The newspaper explains the stunt here. (in Norwegian).

I found the experiment refreshing and would love to see it repeated.

Even though it took me until this weekend to find time to sift through the six op-eds and 78 letters to the editor, and I didn't read every single one of them, I read more, and from more varied perspectives than in a long time. Although Aftenposten has been critizised, to some extent rightly, for giving the stunt the tagline  "What Norwegians really think", which the stunt really can't be said to fully represent, I still think it served to broaden the debate, or public discourse if you like, in a healthy way.

A fair share of the news and opinion I read I get via blogs and social media, and the sources are so diverse it feels unfair to call this a filter bubble, but in some respects it probably is (due to factors such as common interests, similar educational background etc). Another reason why Aftenposten's stunt was so refreshing...


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")  Villamedia.nl 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 Buzzit.no in June – followed by NHST Media Group-owned financial daily DN.no’s Bisbuzz.no and Egmont’s Superlike. In Denmark we’ve seen sites like Egmont’s tickl.dk / superlike.dk.

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 Buzzit.no 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.

Buzzit.no (screengrab):

BuzzitScreengrab

Update 15.02.2015: Schibsted-owned VG joined the fray and launched Tldr.no 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 Vg.no and Nrk.no, 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 Aftenposten.no, which wouldn’t normally be the first place I’d look for breaking news as I’ve sort of got Aftenposten.no down as better on analysis and in-depth stuff than on breaking news.     

So maybe things are changing at Aftenposten.no  also, as the news comapany recently (end of last year) nicked its top boss from Vg.no.

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 Journalisten.no 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) ):

 

Aftenposten


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)   

NyhyllePrix


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.

VG22JuliMonter2

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).  

VG22JuliMonter
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+.

VG22July

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 Journalism.co.uk, 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):