Tag Archives: Sanoma Digital

Sanoma’s digital transformation gains momentum

Sanoma House in Helsinki

Sanoma House in Helsinki

Last week Sanoma announced the FY2013 results. To be frank they were mixed, with online and mobile sales growing but print media in decline. The vocabulary turned classical: annus horribilis, Utopia, and per angusta ad augusta, could be heard in English, Finnish and Dutch conversations during the week. As is often the case with mixed signals, the good news has been somewhat drowned out by the more negative headlines throughout the year.  Yet Learning had a good 2013. And after a slow start to the year the overall digital platform has gained momentum and performed particularly strongly in the final quarter.

I always find it tricky blogging about financial results given that Sanoma is a listed company. But now that we have announced the results, I’d like to call out a handful of highlights on digital in Finland, The Netherlands, Learning and early stage innovation at Sanoma in 2013, drawing on the published materials.

As a reminder, the core strategy of Sanoma rests on three pillars: i) connecting consumers with content and brands, anywhere, anytime; ii) delivering powerful marketing opportunities to advertisers through our reach and consumer insight; and iii) providing personalized digital learning solutions to pupils and teachers.  Digital is clearly an integral part of that strategy.

Finland

Our share of the online media market grew by 5%-points to almost 40%.  Our online advertising revenues grew by 18% over the previous year and digital consumer sales grew by almost 30%. Digital subscriptions at Sanoma’s single biggest brand, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, grew by almost 40% to 160,000 (on a total of about 355,000). Furthermore, digital sales at our second biggest brand Ilta-Sanomat grew by about 40%, whereby digital revenue gains now appear to be exceeding print losses; this terrific performance also secured a lead for Ilta-Sanomat over Iltalehti in terms of visitors. We also saw early success at magazines with the Donald Duck library reaching 12,000 subscribers.

Our market-leading position in recruitment got even stronger and we regained leadership in terms of visitors in real estate.  Finally, we made a great start with e-commerce service MSO.fi with more than 120 retailers already on board.

We have seen strong growth in usage via mobile devices and of online video and this is where we have registered our fastest growth.  By the end of 2013, over 50% of all pageviews on our Finnish network came from mobile devices, with mobile visitors growing by over 100% and pageviews by close to 150%.  Correspondingly, mobile advertising sales grew by around 180%Online video advertising sales grew by over 30% and the weekly reach of video platform ruutu.fi by 25%.

The Netherlands

comScore ranks Sanoma #4 of the big 5 in The Netherlands with 8.1 M unique visitors (MUV) in December 2013  – behind Google, Microsoft and Facebook (12.7, 10.7 and 9.9 MUV, respectively), but ahead of eBay (6.6 MUV). Other Dutch media groups are also represented in the top 20, but lack the reach of Sanoma. The state-subsidised NPO, and privately run TMG, De Persgroep and RTL Groep, registered a reach of 6.2, 5.3, 4.7 and 4.4 MUV respectively in December.

NU.nl, the leading news site by visitors and strongest media brand in The Netherlands and a cornerstone of Sanoma’s digital network, further strengthened this position in 2013 delighting readers with more than 10.000.000.000 pageviews, almost exactly 50 per inhabitant per month! Pageviews have more than doubled in the last three years and in the meantime more than 75% of views are made from mobile devices.  NU-apps have been downloaded more than 5 M times so far.

In common with Finland, video also grew strongly (about 40%) totalling 152 M at video platform zie.nl.

Lindanieuws.nl – an extension of the highly successful magazine brand Linda. – came with a new version that resulted in a tripling of the number of visitors to 1.2 M and a doubling of advertising sales.

Digital sales via automated trading increased by almost 25% – a serious money-maker for our digital network.  Our performance-based business had a solid year. In particular, sales at the recently acquired FashionChick doubled, partly driven by international expansion. The introduction of curated search at directory Startpagina.nl has been a runaway success and one of the most rapidly growing digital product innovations we have made in recent years. Net sales of e-commerce service SBC grew by 25%, with sales of home deco performing particularly well with a growth of nearly 50%, And soft launches of new brands leef.nl (health) and yixx.nl (jewellery) and of the international launch of price comparison site kieskeurig.nl in France and Poland have helped to ensure a healthy pipeline of new business lines that we expect will support the growth of the performance-based assets in the coming years.

Learning

At Learning, there are also good data to evidence our progress to a more digital future. Much of this relates to bringing content to life by making it more functional through digital. For example, in The Netherlands, more than 1,000,000 pupils in primary education work with Malmberg’s software, reaching 60% of all schools.  In a single week in November, more than 1,000,000 exercises were made on homework platform Bingel.be in Belgium. And in Finland, teachers and pupils logged into Sanoma Pro’s new learning environment 1,900,000 times, with 768,000 hours of active use. In the meantime 800 e-books have been published in Sanoma’s five Learning countries on the BookShelf platform provided by Young Digital Planet.

In addition to transforming its core business, Sanoma Learning is working on providing learning services to the home market with a new online tutoring proposition for mathematics: StudySteps. This has been soft launched in Belgium and The Netherlands, tested in Poland and Russia, and the first results are promising, with 110,000 exercises made in the test period.

Furthermore, Sanoma Learning is exploring the possibilities to build a position in emerging markets and has amongst others made an agreement with the People’s Education Press to provide digital services to support the provision of e-learning in China. It’s early days, but there is clear demand for Sanoma’s high quality Learning capabilities abroad.

Innovation

SanomaVentures had an exciting year, receiving over 400 requests from external startups, which ultimately resulted in 9 investments, bringing the total to 15 to date.  In aggregate the business/financial performance of this portfolio has been promising and these ventures currently employ over 161 people. We expect to make a similar number of new investments this year.

Building on the success of the series of in-house innovation accelerators, we have now launched an Innovation Lab to foster the ventures that are borne out of the accelerators and as a test ground for new ideas from the core business.  We currently have a full pipeline of concepts, prototypes and early stage ventures and have set ourselves the goal to have established five ventures in the next 3-5 years that have an annual revenue potential of € 10 M+. In 2013 we ran four accelerators (Content, Commerce, Talent and NU-lab), two of which were open to external participation. Through these accelerators we trained about 500 Sanoma employees on the lean development methodology and created 15 functional prototypes, about half of which have been given seed funding for further customer validation.

Finally, we have significantly increased our investments and human resourcing on data science including hiring a team of 20 data scientists last year to boost our analytics and insights capabilities across Sanoma. We are currently working on developing the common “big data” enablers, as well as specific cases on consumer sales, online advertising and new business models. We expect to make a quantum leap in our insights capabilities in the coming years.

Good progress on the journey

Overall, reflecting on the three pillars of Sanoma’s strategy i) connecting consumers with content and brands, anywhere, anytime, and ii) delivering powerful marketing opportunities to advertisers through our reach and consumer insight and iii) providing personalized digital learning solutions to pupils and teachers, I believe the highlights above show that digital has made a big contribution in 2013 to progressing this strategy. Respect to the teams who have made this happen and thanks for your hard work!

Making it happen at the CommerceAccelerator bootcamp!

Participants at the closing session. Blinded by the light ...

Participants at the closing session. Blinded by the light …

We’re working hard on transforming Sanoma for a more digital future. Boosting innovation is key and includes developing new digital business lines and learning new skills that we can use across the company. For this purpose we have created the Innovation Accelerators and the CommerceAccelerator is the third in the series so far.

We see three domains of opportunity for the future Sanoma. Firstly, we want to provide information and entertainment to consumers across multiple channels. Secondly we want to help advertisers with powerful marketing solutions based on our reach to consumers and insights into them.  And thirdly, we want to help to help pupils and teachers to achieve great learning outcomes using new learning solutions.

Winners go to bootcamp

Team leaders at the closing session

Team leaders at closing session

In Amsterdam last week we ran the bootcamp for the CommerceAccelerator – focusing on the advertising domain mentioned above. The top 5 ideas and their owners were selected in a live webinar to build prototypes of their concepts. This followed an inspiring program of ideation and training, of building and testing ideas, which started out with about 220 participants from across Sanoma and included about 70 university students.

Rich talent

Student team Weggle from Tampere

Student team Weggle from Tampere

We had an interesting and varied mix of talent amongst the team leaders, including people from business development, sales, product management, television and a student team from Tampere.  I like it a lot when we have such a diversity of experience and skills at the bootcamp: it makes for a rich and exciting experience!

Fast pace, strong delivery

I love the bootcamps. They are practical and fast paced. They’re very demanding but also a lot of fun. It’s great to have teams of talented and driven people working on building prototypes and testing them with real customers.  Making it happen!  I believe in learning by doing and this is a very concrete proof of that!

Leadership

Listening to CEO Harri-Pekka Kaukonen kicking off the pitch session (for the sake of good order, I am tweeting that picture in this photo, I am not checking my mail during the speech :))

Listening to CEO Harri-Pekka Kaukonen kicking off the pitch session. (For the sake of good order, I am tweeting that picture in this photo, I am not checking my mail during the speech!)

We were joined by Sanoma’s CEO Harri-Pekka Kaukonen, CHRO Jackie Cuthbert and the CEO of Sanoma Learning Jacques Eijkens. They are all strong supporters of the accelerators. We appreciated that they joined us; they are all super-busy driving the transformation of Sanoma, but it is brilliant that they make the time to support the accelerators.  A great show of leadership!

Five prototypes

Listening with intent to the pitches. Amongst others, Harri-Pekka Kaukonen on the front row, and Jackie Cuthbert on the back row.

Listening with intent to the pitches. Amongst others, Harri-Pekka Kaukonen on the front row, and Jackie Cuthbert on the back row.

At the end of the day on Thursday each of the teams demonstrated their prototypes. They included i) a contextual and sentimental targeting service; ii) a pre-targeting service; iii) a mobile advertising service iv) a gamified service to engage viewers during TV commercial breaks and v) a shopping service bridging the real and virtual worlds. Some of the testing with customers has been quite brilliant and helped to underpin the commercial promise of the ideas. Great validation!  (I would like to show the promo video’s here, but feel it’s a bit premature at this stage).

Top teams

I really like and respect the passion and enthusiasm of the teams and am proud of how they have performed and behaved! This counts for the idea owners and the talented professionals from MakerLab.  And also for Lassi Kurkijärvi (@lassi, Director at Sanoma) and Joris van Heukelom (@jorisheuk, Partner at Makerstreet) who once again showed inspiring leadership throughout the program.  Great job everyone!

Next steps

We have promised the teams that we will inform them how we would like to proceed by the end of next week. There are three alternatives: i) create a new venture ii) develop within the business or iii) not pursue the opportunity. I am confident we will pursue some of these concepts and will engage with the key stakeholders to ensure that we will be able to bring them to market quickly!

The world turns of course, and we are working on developing the next accelerator which will focus on 4G and video and we aim to start in Q1 next year.  With the launch of our Innovation Lab in January (as part of the new unit Sanoma Digital), which will be led by our mobile superhero Lassi Kurkijärvi, the Innovation Accelerators have become a core element of our transformation program. I see the establishment of the Innovation Lab as a great validation of the success of the accelerators we have run so far.

I’ve been happy about the high level of support that we have won from top management and young talent. What I would like to develop further in upcoming accelerators is to secure more engagement from middle managers. I believe this would help us in transforming the core business.  If anyone has good ideas about how to achieve this, please drop me a line!

CommerceAccelerator goes to bootcamp

commerce-accelerator-bootcamp-selectionLast week in a live broadcast, we selected the five winning concepts and idea owners who will join us this week at the bootcamp of the CommerceAccelerator in Amsterdam. We will build prototypes of these ideas and test them with customers, as a pre-cursor to deciding which concepts to sponsor as new ventures at Sanoma.

Two big goals

We have two main objectives for the accelerator programs.

Firstly, we want to develop new digital business lines – to plant the seeds of the next generation of Sanoma products and services. We have set ourselves the target of establishing five new ventures (the “fabulous five”) within the next five years that have clearly demonstrated the potential to become as successful as NU.nl is today. From the first two accelerators we have created six new ventures and we will soon reach the critical moment when we decide which of them to boost further and which to discontinue.

Secondly, we want to develop lean development skills across Sanoma to support the overall digital transformation. We want 20% of all employees to join an accelerator program in the next five years. By the end of 2014, we expect that more than 1.000 Sanoma employees will have participated in an accelerator and learned the lean development methodology.

So far, so good :-).

Why the CommerceAccelerator?

This is the third accelerator in the series so far and focuses on enabling commerce. We see three domains of opportunity where Sanoma has the ability and ambition to succeed: i) creating, curating and distributing content for consumers ii) providing powerful marketing solutions to advertisers and iii) supporting learning and education. This accelerator clearly supports our ambitions in the second domain.

Positive and optimistic

I’m enthusiastic about how this accelerator has been going so far. I love the positive energy and can-do attitude of the people. This time we have made the accelerator “open” to university students and that’s brought it an extra edge, a new freshness. I like it when we innovate the innovation programs :-). It’s also been great to see such a good mix of people: Sanoma and Students; Finland and The Netherlands; Print, Digital and TV. Lassi and Joris have done a wonderful job again: every time we do it, it grows and gets better.

Voting criteria

The ten concepts and their owners were all strong and had put forward excellent pitches. Prior to the selection I advised the voters to consider five criteria when making their decision: i) does it fit our strategy? ii) are we capable of doing it? iii) can we earn money from it? iv) can this person make it happen and v) is the lean development method being well used? I don’t know if anyone listened to the advice, but I am happy with the results of the voting :-).

High Five

Voting was tense and the public rounds went to the wire a couple of times. The three concepts selected from the public voting included propositions for mobile advertising, engaging tv ads and marrying offline and online commerce. Two additional concepts won “wildcards” from the expert jury based on the expectation that they would be well position to “make it happen”: a reverse retargeting proposition and a relevant and engaging online advertising service.

Excited about bootcamp

I’m truly excited to see what the idea owners will create at bootcamp this week! What can we make of these concepts? Might one of them eventually become one of the fabulous five? I’m sure that most of the participants will experience this as one of the best weeks in their professional lives so far: hard work, fast pace, rapid learning, focus on delivery and a lot of fun too! Tomorrow morning is the kick-off and by the end of Thursday afternoon we will see what the teams are capable of.

So, good luck to the teams and do your best! Looking forward >>

NU-lab: open innovation in the news

NU nl InfographicOne of the absolute success stories of Sanoma in recent years has been the illustrious growth of NU.nl, the leading news site by visitors and strongest media brand in The Netherlands. NU.nl prides itself on speed (“the latest news first”), neutrality and user-friendliness and I pride myself on being one of its heaviest users :-).

Usage of NU.nl has grown rapidly from about 500 M page views per month in the summer of 2011 to almost 1.000 M by the summer of this year. That’s massive engagement, especially if you consider there are less than 17 M inhabitants in the country!  This spectacular growth has been driven by mobile consumption – more than 2/3 of page views now come from mobile, with Android devices leading the charge recently.  NU-apps have been downloaded almost 5 M times so far.

Strong  Sanoma Digital Network

NU.nl is a cornerstone of Sanoma’s digital networkcomScore ranks Sanoma #4 of the big 5 in The Netherlands with 8.5 M unique visitors (MUV) in October 2013  – behind Google, Microsoft and Facebook (12.7, 11.1 and 9.8 MUV, respectively), but ahead of eBay (7.1 MUV).  Other Dutch media groups are also performing well and are represented in the top 20, but lack the reach of Sanoma.  The state-subsidised NPO, and privately run TMG, De Persgroep and RTL Groep, registered a reach of 6.3, 6.2, 5.3 and 5.2 MUV respectively in October.

NU.nl is also a cornerstone of the newly formed business unit Sanoma Digital that will boost digital growth, innovation and capabilities at Sanoma.  Sander Stallinga, the superstar publisher of NU.nl will lead the domain of Digital Content in the new Management Team.

Winning team at NU.nl

The success of NU.nl has been created by the NU.nl team and I am really proud of that team. One of the things I respect about them is that they are looking ahead. This is a sign of a winning team! It can be easy to sit back and relax when you achieve success.  But this team is working hard on further developing the brand to make it even more relevant for our customers in the future.  Part of this relates to extending NU.nl into new verticals, such as nutech.nl (great launch recently!) and new media (especially mobile and video).  But we want to bring an additional richness to innovation at NU.nl, using not only the talents of our own people but engaging with outside talent too.  For that reason, and building on the early success that we have had with our series of innovation accelerators, we decided to run an open innovation accelerator on news called NU LAB, sponsored by Sander Stallinga and in cooperation with the excellent Joris van Heukelom at MakerLab.

NU LAB

NU-LAB-blogWe have accepted more than 150 participants into the program. It’s a highly diverse group that includes not only journalists and Sanoma enthusiasts, but also professionals from advertising agencies and government ministries and students (about a quarter of the total).  We even have a 16 year old school pupil on board.  It’s really great to see this rich diversity of talent and enthusiasm!

The program started with a kick-off, and is followed by a series of webinars for inspiration, training, and guidance on the assignments. Through a competitive process we expect to select the top three ideas that we will send to bootcamp at the end of January – the winning idea owners will form a team with an interaction designer, designer and developer to build a working prototype of their concept.   The winner will receive a prize of € 10.000 and the chance that their idea will become part of the superbrand that is NU.nl.

Quick pitch and value proposition

In the first webinar, Gert-Jaap Hoekman (Editor-in-Chief of NU.nl) explained the three domains that form the scope of this open accelerator: the distribution, production and bundling of content.  Brechtje de Leij (Senior Product Manager Mobile), explained how we work.  Our American guest Mark Briggs (author of Entrepreneurial Journalism and Journalism 2.0) gave an inspiring session on innovation in journalism.  And Joris van Heukelom (Partner at MakerStreet) talked about design thinking.  Participants also got their first assignment: develop the quick pitch and describe the value proposition for your idea.

Customer validation

In the second webinar Mark Vos (Editor Social and UGC at NU.nl) talked about the role of the user in the creation, aggregation and selection of news, and Jerry Vermanen (data journalist at NU.nl) about data journalism.  Joris van Heukelom went further with lean product development.  Participants got their second assignment: customer validation.  This is so important on the journey of discovery!  This is the assignment that the participants are currently working on.

Inspiration

I’ve been browsing the content of the platform this afternoon and always find this insightful and inspiring.  I love to see the ideas and am curious about the person behind the idea. I always wonder: why is this important to them?  And I cannot deny my competitive streak which generally guides me to the leader boards for ideas and engagement – they are quite powerful in steering perception.

Respect!

So, we still have a couple of months to go, but I would like to express my heartfelt support for open innovation at NU.nl and for the participants who have joined us on this journey.  Respect to you for looking ahead and making something new!

Spirited start at Sanoma Digital

sanomaxAt the end of October, Sanoma announced the planned launch of Sanoma Digital to boost our pure-play digital business in consumer media. Sanoma Digital will have three main goals: i) to grow ii) to boost innovation and iii) to advance our capabilities on analytics and lean development.

Engaging with colleagues

In the weeks since the announcement I’ve been meeting my colleagues in the new digital organisation to talk about the plans for digital and to listen to and discuss the feedback. This has been a truly positive experience and I’ve also been really been proud to see how my new team is stepping up to the challenge.  I especially like it when there is a lot of interaction and direct and open questions in the sessions; the more lively the discussion, the more fun it is!

Reflecting on the past weeks, there are three themes that I have heard frequently in the feedback and discussions at new Sanoma Digital, and I want to call them out here:

Optimism and positive energy

Although we are facing challenging times, the over-riding spirit at new Sanoma Digital is optimistic and positive.  The announcement of the new unit has been welcomed. This is widely seen as a good step to take in boosting digital at Sanoma and in bringing new opportunities for our people.  It brings a new and promising perspective.

Support for the clarity and focus

There has been strong support amongst the employees and in the new management team of Sanoma Digital for establishing this new business unit. This support comes from the clear and distinct mandate: to grow, to innovate and to advance our capabilities in digital consumer media. Each part of the business has a role to play in navigating Sanoma to the future. This is where Sanoma Digital can make a difference.  And organising to make that happen is seen as making good sense.

Ambition to win

I sense a strong ambition to win amongst the teams at Sanoma Digital.  I feel it in the teams of our successful brands such as NU.nl, oikotie.fi and kieskeurig.nl. I feel it at the Innovation Lab and at SanomaVentures.  And I feel it in the analytics and professional support teams.  It’s an ambition and determination to take this opportunity and to make a difference by winning in the market.  It feels good and I respect it a lot.

So, these are my reflections on the last couple of weeks.  I’m looking forward to becoming CEO of Sanoma Learning during the course of next year, but know very well that I will be leaving behind a fantastic opportunity at Sanoma Digital!

 

Sanoma Digital to boost transformation on three fronts: growth, innovation and capabilities

nu-labSanoma recently announced the planned launch of Sanoma Digital as part of an overall accelerated transformation program.

We see many opportunities in digital and have in the meantime built a substantial and growing digital business.  We intend to boost digital by creating this new business unit which will focus on pure-play digital assets in consumer media in Finland and The Netherlands, and will include brands such as oikotie.fi, NU.nl and kieskeurig.nl.  Digital brand extensions such as hs.fi and libelle.nl will be run directly by Sanoma Media Finland and The Netherlands. Sanoma Learning will drive all Learning activities.

Focus

A core element of the overall transformation program is to bring more focus to the business and to ensure that each part has a clear mandate and objectives.  This also holds true for Sanoma Digital.  Growing and innovating pure-play digital businesses in consumer media is a different assignment than transforming a portfolio of magazines, winning viewers for television, taking newspapers to their next level or building digital workflow solutions for learning.  Each of these assignments needs dedicated management attention to focus on making it happen.

Digital enjoys a unique role within the portfolio and will for that reason also work very closely with the other platforms to enable cross-media solutions for consumers and advertisers – shared sales, insights & analytics and ICT teams will help us to achieve that.

Goals

Sanoma Digital will have three main goals:

  1. The first goal is to growgrowthWe intend to significantly grow the digital consumer media business in the next 5 years. Part of that growth will come from working closely with the local business in Finland and the Netherlands, including adding new verticals, new media (mobile and video) and new services to our performance-based (lead-generation, e-commerce, online classifieds) and pure-play digital content businesses. Another part of the growth will come from scaling successful concepts created in The Netherlands and Finland to new markets.  We have been investing in the early part the product pipeline recently with quite some new launches in the final quarter this year.  We expect this to bear fruits during the course of the coming years.
  2. The second goal is to boost innovation and to strengthen skills across the organisation on lean development methods. Commerce-Accelerator-logo To achieve this we will establish a new innovation lab which will nurture the winning concepts borne out of our ongoing series of innovation accelerators.  Furthermore, we will continue to invest in external digital enterprises via Sanoma Ventures. We want to fill the pipeline with new business lines – to plant the seeds of the next generation Sanoma.
  3. The third goal is to strengthen our capabilities on data insights & analytics. We will bundle our resources on insights and analytics, boost them, and deploy them across Sanoma, to help the whole company to succeed in the digital transformation.

Positive outcomes

From the perspective of digital, we hope this will position us to better serve our customers. If we are successful, we will grow digital and this should help us to provide attractive new opportunities for employees and improved returns for shareholders.

Two passions

From a personal perspective, my next assignment is to establish Sanoma Digital. I’m excited about this and believe setting up Sanoma digital is a good step to boost the digital transformation. We’re now in the process of setting up a new team to drive this agenda.  I’m really proud of the talented people who are joining this team and who will work at Sanoma Digital!  During Q1 next year I will succeed Jacques Eijkens as CEO of Sanoma Learning.  My two passions are digital and learning.  Sanoma has a strong and successful international Learning business that is also going through a digital transformation.  I hope and believe that I will be able to contribute to the further success of Sanoma Learning by boosting the leadership of digital and innovation there.