The Sad State of The Unpaid “Internship” at Schibsted / Servicefinder

There are few things I despise more than unpaid internships. I am a firm believer that it is unprofessional to work for free. If a company cannot generate enough value from your employment to pay at least a livable wage, then should they even bother to hire you in the first place.  It is despicable abuse of  desperate labour

Today’s culprit is Norwegian media conglomerate Schibsted, owner of Aftonbladet, Blocket.se, Finn.no, among others. With an annual revenue of over 14b NOK, one would think they could pay livable wages for their staff. I know (print) media is currently suffering from decreasing revenue and that there are many out of work journalist/journalist students but that doesn’t mean you can go around abusing them.

Below is the Google translate of a Swedish job advert for a job at ServiceFinder (too lazy to manually translate it of course), original can be found here and backup of it here. The translation is slightly dodgy but you will get the gist of the advert.

Service Finder has grown steadily since 2006 and now has clearer growth plans. Today we are the largest in the industry in Sweden, is one of Nordic’s largest groups Schibsted and cooperates with sites like Blocket.se and Aftonbladet. Service Finder has a strong corporate culture and growth focused. We believe that the company grows, so grows the individual. Now looking for a marketing intern for the service as a writer who wants to join in the growth of the department and the company

Schedule
Full-time, 8:30 to 17:30
Unpaid internship, eight weeks starting in agreement (chance of employment available)

Duties
Your primary task is to create interesting articles in which you will be working as an investigative writer in industries such as construction, cleaning and moving. Examples of items are “How to find the right craftsman” and “What services people buy the paycheck.” Some of the items will be included in the article series, eg “Renovation School”, then you will get to have overall responsibility for the entire series of articles. You will also be responsible for creating different templates for contracts and guides / checklists along with marketing communications.

We offer you
The marketing department is a close-knit team and you will be working closely with marketing, marketing communications, and software developer. The team is very agile with quick decisions. It gives you great opportunities to influence and to implement fun new projects. It can also occur orders from other departments that you may be responsible for.

As a writer, you need:
• Be able to find innovative solutions to problems and be creative
• Have a talent for writing the word
• Able to adjust tonality based on audience and channel
• Be good at cooperating. You will be working closely with the project manager and designer.
• Be stress. We often work against tight deadlines and fight against time
• Takes responsibility, careful and structured.

We like you a little extra if you:
• Have relevant training as a writer or in journalism
• Are interested in web
• Can write search engine optimized

Interviews and selection is ongoing, so please send your application with relevant work samples as soon as possible but no later than 1 July 2013.

As you can see, the internship is unpaid, and is pretty much legitimate work. I am not sure how much anyone (especially someone with a journalist degree) will learn from writing about “How to find the right craftsman”. Internships as part of the education, which rewards university credits and allow you to get student grants/loans are fine in my opinion, but anything more than that is a joke. This “job advert” is a crass attempt by a very large organization to abuse (free) labour. The requirements are enough for be proper job, let alone an unpaid internship. It may be boring articles to write but the topics mentioned sure as hell is a legitimate job, one that should be paid. If you cannot generate enough money to support one journalist from such articles on properties like ServiceFinder, then you are doing something wrong.

I am not a great fan of unions but this is a case where they are important. I am not sure of the laws surrounding internships in Sweden but this is a sad case. I am sure a lot of people will apply in hopes of having a chance on permanent employment.  Unpaid internships are an evil that should be cleansed from the job market. They benefit no one in the long run. If a position does not generate enough value for a company to pay a minimum wage, then it should probably not exist.  The sooner unpaid internships are scrapped, the better.

Shame on Schibsted and shame on ServiceFinder. At least pay your employees a damn salary instead of pretending that it is an internship.

-P

Did you find this post interesting, controversial or dumb? Leave a comment below or send the author a tweet (@Chronoo).

Follow-up: MTGx Investor Presentation

I’ve finally had a chance to properly look at MTGx‘s investor presentation that Rikard Steiber posted on Twitter a few minutes before my last post went live. I apologise for the delay but my master thesis had to take priority 😉

I will not discuss everything presented in the slides, but on the parts that specifically interest me.

[Edit: Embedded the slides, had forgotten you could do that with Slideshare]

xVentures: MTGx incubator/investor arm. xVentures is very interesting as they can actually offer  startups a lot than traditional incubators and investors lack: advertising and sales infrastructure. Both of of these are usually a problem for startups and one thing is for sure, MTG knows their advertising.  From the slides (The Pitch):

60 channels in 35 markets
TV operator, Radio, Digital
Media cross promotion
Content cross creation
Local sales force to sell
Local editorial to curate

Ability to advertise in 60 channels across 35 markets? That is an amazing opportunity for most companies and startups in particular. Let’s not forget that MTG(x) are used to selling B2B. I am quite positive they can assist startups with marketing (Sorry, most people (including myself) are just not as good at marketing as we think) and pricing.

Viagame: I could not really understand why MTGx would spend the time and money on Viagame, it is, as I said in my previous post, a deviously hard market to make a decent buck in and they basically had nothing that differentiated them from the competitors. I was wrong. They do have one thing, which is mentioned in the slides: Leverage unsold TV inventory to drive online traffic and sales.

Leveraging the unsold inventory, where they were unable to sell advertisement, to generate (some) revenue. It is quite brilliant. The margins on each sold game are probably around 15-30% (I believe Steam takes ~30% from game sales), which is a healthy margin for relatively small investment on MTG’s part (Shelf-ware distribution tool, basic adverts for Viagame etc). The unsold inventory would otherwise be ‘wasted’, now a profit can be made, albeit smaller than if the inventory had been sold but it helps smoothing out the revenue streams – no/smaller dips in revenue if inventory goes unsold.

xCreations: ‘Youtube style’ production/content (my own interpretation). Rikard Steiber correctly identifies that ‘old media’ have not been very good at embracing Youtube and they, in my opinion, have often failed to create the type of content that the Youtube viewers expect, thus it makes sense to create a small and innovative team to embrace the Youtube-styled content. Perhaps on their own platform, perhaps not.

I would love to see production companies embracing gaming content (my personal favourite among the Youtube content). eSports on Youtube, game play commentaries and Let’s Play are quite big business these days and they could be so much more with proper production companies behind them. Companies like Yogscast have come a long way with their production, they got a really good crew going right now, and they are still growing, but many others are still 1-3 man operations and could use a good production crew. Yes, I know they get support from Maker studios/The Game Station etc. but it just doesn’t have the same finesse as traditional production for the most part.)

The slides make me even more excited to see what MTGx has in store for us. Will the be successful?  I don’t know. I hope so, it would mean more jobs in Stockholm, which is never a bad thing – except if you want to buy an apartment. MTGx still have a long way before they can revolutionize digital media but god knows it is sorely needed. ‘Old Media’ seems to have trouble to adopting to Youtube-style content. More innovation is never bad in my opinion. I will continue to keep an eye on MTGx and other potentially innovative companies in Sweden.

P.S. I should say, if you found these things interesting, you probably should apply at MTGxJobs.com, they seem like nice people and currently got 25 jobs up for grabs. (And no, I have no relation to MTG(x))

Now back to writing my thesis. Perspectives on ES/ERP implementation success (in the onward and upward phase). Interesting stuff if you like large scale implementations of IT systems and the factors that leads to successful implementations.

-P

Did you find this post interesting, controversial or dumb? Leave a comment below or send the author a tweet (@Chronoo).