Ongoing digital transformation has helped leading German publisher Axel Springer become one of Europe’s largest media companies, with almost three-quarters of revenue coming from digital channels.
“Only 10 years ago, just 1% of Axel Springer’s revenue and profits could be attributed to digital,” said Dr. Andreas Wiele, member of the board and president of classified media at Axel Springer. “Today, more than 65% of our revenue and more than 80% of our profits are digital.”
Explaining the publisher’s strategies for digital transformation, Dr. Wiele advised enterprises to understand what their core business is: in this case, Axel Springer is not in the business of selling paper, but producing content. Axel Springer was able to play to its strengths - a large pool of journalists to create great content for all channels, and to recognize that it could not transform the print business directly for the digital space. It also set out to acquire online companies to boost its classified advertising business model.
“Make sure that your corporate culture changes to that of the acquired business and not the other way around,” Dr. Wiele pointed out. Conversely, the strong push to digital has given the company the ability to strengthen both its traditional print and digital expertise: “We are now enough of a digital company that we can afford to have print specialists again.”
Outlining digital trends to watch for, Dr. Wiele cited the shifts towards mobile and video, the ensuing monetization, as well as artificial intelligence and blockchain. “It’s usually not the incumbents who win in the next wave,” he said. “Blockchain will potentially reshuffle the game and we want to be at the forefront of this change.”
Turning to content management, Dr. Wiele noted that AI-generated content could free up journalists and marketers for more value-added work and that they should “never underestimate the power of true original content.” For Axel Springer, “providing truly independent, well-investigated, researched, documented journalism is what will set us apart.”
Dr. Wiele was speaking in a video interview following his appointment as chairman of the board of directors at Magnolia International, the Swiss CMS vendor.
Magnolia will be at Forrester’s Digital Transformation Europe from June 14 to 15 in London, UK and will give a talk on how its customers master DX challenges through integrating legacy technology, removing silos and building agile platforms and processes.