Sometimes I really feel privileged as a researcher when I get the opportunity to meet new people who are prepared to change the world. Well, if not the world, at least these guys seem to know how to transform the media business in Scandinavia. This kind of a feeling struck me as I boarded the plane back to Stockholm on the way back from the northern city of Umeå in Västerbotten, Sweden.
The visit took place in early January at Västerbottens-Kuriren (VK), where I was welcomed by Sture Bergman, CEO of VK-koncernen (VK Media Group) and Ingvar Näslund, Editor-in-Chief of VK. VK Media Group comprises of two newspapers – namely VK and Folkbladet published in the north of Sweden, in the city of Umeå and its surroundings, as well as a ‘freebie’ named Totalt Umeå, Nöjesmagasinet and some external brands where VK are resellers (Daily, Mix Megapol and Radio Rix). All except for Daily, a printing company, are directly related to media content. Sture Bergman is a former Editor-in-Chief, who has initiated a big cultural change as part of his job as CEO. The cultural change has been well reported in the INMA publication ‘Ideas – the magazine of newsmedia marketing’ in January, 2012.
(i) Information and analysis; (ii) improvement of efficiency; and (iii) development. Needless to say efficiency is required in the changing media landscape, as Swedish local newspapers have generally lost both in reach and advertising income in the recent years. VK have managed to achieve flat figures with this regard, and have remarkably improved efficiency at the same time.
- A new Business Model for online publishing.
- The development of ‘Totalt Umeå’, the weekly freebie, aimed at fortifying its position as #1 in view of local competition.
- A unique mobile service platform including editorial and commercial competence (new platform for a media service concept).
The main challenge remains the change of culture. In order to achieve overall success and to remain as profitable as VK has been, there is a real need for change in attitudes. The whole media group needs to turn from inside to focus on people and businesses on the outside. As Sture put it in his recent presentation at a Media Forum in Oslo: “It is not enough that we know… It is not enough that we have to… We must have the will to… It’s scary! It’s inconvenient! It is difficult! But great fun!”