"The future of the media - definitely the future of Axel Springer - is digital." With these words, CEO Mathias Döpfner announced on Tuesday a new organizational structure for the major German media brands "Bild" and WELT, the core of which is greater independence for the two brands is under the Axel Springer umbrella.
In an email to the workforce, Döpfner went on to say: "Journalism on printed paper will no longer exist at some point. That's why our printed newspapers will no longer exist. Sometime. Nobody knows exactly when that will happen. Print will probably last longer than some think.” Paper newspapers and magazines are still indispensable for many readers and advertisers. It would therefore also be economically unreasonable to switch “Bild” and WELT completely to digital distribution in the short term. Döpfner: “But at some point, in a few years, it will make sense to switch to purely digital offerings. We have to prepare for that.”
In this context, Döpfner, 60, announced job cuts. Investments and savings in personnel are aimed at increasing profits: "In order to remain economically successful in the future, our earnings in the German media business must improve by around 100 million euros over the next three years." "We will create and cut jobs at the same time," explained Döpfner, without giving specific figures. There will be a volunteer program for that. "We try to avoid redundancies."
Döpfner had repeatedly announced that the traditional publisher would no longer have a printed newspaper in the medium term. Plans by the RTL management at the traditional publisher Gruner Jahr to discontinue or sell many magazines are currently causing a stir in the industry. This should eliminate a total of around 1000 jobs.
When preparing for the purely digital future of Axel Springer's media business, artificial intelligence can help to support or replace journalism. "We must therefore concentrate on researching exclusive news, personal views in reports as well as original commentary and original entertainment," announced the Springer boss.
The creation of exclusive and attractive content remains irreplaceable and is becoming even more critical to the success of media companies: "Only those who create the best original content will survive." In his email to the employees, Döpfner wrote:
Research, persistent questioning, uncovering news, so-called investigative journalism is becoming increasingly important. Clever comments and analyses, reports based on one's own views and expert knowledge that is communicated in a way that is easy to understand, as well as good entertainment and sporting live experiences are becoming increasingly important. In short: the creation of exclusive and attractive content remains irreplaceable and is becoming even more critical to the success of publishers. Only those who create the best original content will survive. The sheer aggregation of information, the compilation of existing facts will soon make bots better. To illustrate with an example: when and how and under what circumstances the German Chancellor held talks with banks that were involved in the CumEx affair – artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT answers this in a few seconds. What the real motivations for these talks were - that journalists would have to research and if possible reveal. The bot can do one thing better, the other not at all for the time being. You need journalists for that. They provide the raw material for enlightenment.
Journalistic production, on the other hand, is becoming a by-product, more and more technically supported and automated. "In the areas of production, layout, correction and administration, there will be a significant reduction in jobs." years would get into a dangerous imbalance if we do nothing".
Döpfner further emphasized that Springer relies on even better journalism: "We do not believe in centralism, more synergies, more matrix, i.e. a form of organization in which too many people are responsible for too many brands and activities at the same time - and are therefore no longer really responsible - are. Instead, we want and shape more entrepreneurship. More responsibility. More proximity to the market and customers.”
Therefore, according to Döpfner, the very different groups WELT and "Bild" would be set up more independently than before - just like "Politico", "Insider", StepStone, Aviv and Idealo. The task for the "Bild" group under CEO Claudius Senst is to continue to grow and to use its outstanding reach, above all, in marketing. The task for the WELT Group under CEO Carolin Hulshoff Pol is to “economically strengthen the premium brand as a pluralistic investigative and debate medium, to grow in the digital subscription business and in the premium advertising segment and to further expand TV activities”.