Just a few months ago Gianpaolo Santorsola (Campi Salentina, Italy, 1979) is in charge of Schibsted Spain. He has worked in this Norwegian multinational for seven years, especially linked to the strategic growth of the Barcelona hub. An energetic and assertive economist, he is also close to the point that his team calls him Gianpa.
Schibsted turns 180 Is digital transformation the key to your survival?
The key is the ability to undertake and innovate without fear of cannibalizing their businesses. The entrepreneur component is in our blood from the beginning: Schibsted was born as a printing company [en 1839], lost several clients and had to be transformed into a newspaper.
Did the turn of the millennium mean conversion into a technology company?
Yes. At the beginning of 2000, Schibsted realized that his newspapers had an important part of classified ads and that the possibilities of Internet were wide: the search was easier, the visualization was better and the volume of publication much more … Finn.no, a digital portal that is currently a global reference in classifieds, and that began to take away business from paper, to cannibalize it.
And then the Internet bubble exploded …
Yes, it was a difficult time for Finn.no. Fortunately, there was a long-term vision and it was decided to continue. That made the difference with other publishing groups in Europe. That's where our internationalization began and the transformation of a business based on paper and news into a completely digital one based on classified ads. Now most of the group's benefits come from online. And not only that. It was also understood that the future of the news was digital. In that sense, Schibsted is an example of how to carry out the processes of digitalization of newspapers.
However, in Spain Schibsted sold 20 minutes in 2015 instead of addressing its conversion. Why?
When Schibsted came to Spain he also made that conversion – Segundamano, which was on paper – and moved everything to digital. Now, all over the world, classifieds are only online. The sale of 20 minutes was more a strategic decision of the group's news division, which decided to dispense with free distribution newspapers, selling 20 minutes in Spain and also in France.
In Spain, the strategy has been more oriented to acquisitions than in the rest of the world. "
However, are you still betting on Spain?
Yes, the commitment to Spain is great. In Schibsted Spain we are already more than 1,000 people: in 2018 we have hired 140 people and we are looking for 50 more.
In 2019 they will inaugurate a large building on the 22 @ of Barcelona. Is the city a magnet for the new economy?
Yes, for good and for bad. With the Mobile World Congress, a very interesting startup presence has been generated and there is a great crop of talent that attracts large international companies. We are here since 2006. Now, it is even too attractive, we are noticing a large increase in the demand for technological talent in Barcelona that has unleashed a war to attract and retain it.
There are also problems with the accommodation. With the data they have of the real estate market, are we facing a new bubble?
No. I do not think so at the moment.
But in the rent itself?
More than a bubble there is little supply because many more families are betting on the flexibility of a rental. The demand increases and the offer is fixed. This triggers the price, especially in cities such as Barcelona, Madrid or Valencia. Habits are changing. And it is one thing that I like, because the concept of classifieds is to adjust what you have to your needs at any time.
It is time for changes also in Schibsted. This year there will be an internal split from which a new company will emerge. Why this reorganization?
Up to now there were two major divisions: editorial and classified. The Board of Directors has decided to reorganize it differently and that everything we have in Norway, Sweden and Finland, including its classified ones, is in a unit that will continue to be called Schibsted. In the new company, which at the moment is called MPI, will be all the classified businesses in the world that are outside of those three countries and the intention is that it will be quoted on the Stock Exchange, probably in the second quarter of 2019.
In which Stock Exchange will MPI quote?
In the Oslo.
And where will it be based?
This we do not know. We are evaluating the best market and where to place the legal headquarters. What we know is that an important part of the headquarters will be in Barcelona. Could the head office be in Madrid, like Schibsted Spain since 2016? It could be, but it is not the most likely. The first option is Oslo, because the matrix is there. The second, Paris and the third, London, which I think will fall by the Brexit.
Will this capital injection allow them to continue with their acquisitions in Spain?
Here the strategy has been more oriented to acquisitions than in the rest of the world, and Anuntis was bought first, then Milanuncios, Infojobs and recently Habitaclia. Now with the quotation in stock market of MPI there will be more possibilities of increasing acquisitions, companies that improve our chain of value or startups that complement our offer.
Any acquisition in sight?
No. We are busy integrating Habitaclia, which has a very user-oriented culture, which we love. We try to share the best practices of Fotocasa and Habitaclia.
And merge them?
It is not in the plans. The users do not only look at a portal, they use an average of 2.6 portals and I want two of those 2.6 to be mine.
Wallapop already sells cars and real estate; Facebook has its marketplace, just come into play Google Jobs … Are they afraid of so much competition?
Schibsted in general is positively paranoid, so it is very difficult for us to relax. Of course it gives us respect, we know that leadership positions are never yours, you have them rented while delivering value to users and customers. This is learned in 180 years of history. Spain is a market with aggressive local competitors. Leadership must be won every day. The problem is when the competition is uneven …
A specific danger of unfair competition?
For example, Google has just launched Google Jobs. The day you take advantage of your leadership as a seeker to push your vertical employment would not be fair competition.
What is the next challenge to remain competitive?
We have had several transformations. The first, from the paper to the computer, which has multiplied the volume of publication, and the most recent, from the computer to the mobile, which has enabled geolocation and personalization. The next wave of innovation will be in the personalization of the service. That is to say, that Fotocasa is your Fotocasa, or be able to select curriculums for the company or propose more personalized offers to the candidates in Infojobs.
Through artificial intelligence?
Yes, I would talk about machine learning, that the machines learn, thanks to the data and they are suggesting things that may interest you. It is what I see coming.