Digital Innovation Digital Publishing
2 mins read

“We don’t think in devices anymore, we think in users”: Germany’s leading publisher on going from print to digital

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As our world has become increasingly digitized, the news industry has been forced to follow suit. Fewer people, after all, are reading the news in print, instead choosing to do so from their computers and mobile devices. More often than not, these readers are accessing online news for free. 

According to the Reuters Institute’s 2019 Digital News Report, the percentage of people around the world who pay for the news they consume has remained low. In all but two of the 36 countries around the world surveyed for the study, less than 15 percent of news readers pay for the content they consume. In 25 of the 36 countries, this percentage sits at 10 percent or less. 

Amid this industry upheaval, newsrooms around the world have struggled to put into place sustainable business models, and newsroom closures and layoffs have become commonplace.

For this episode of IJNotes, we sat down with Dr. Ruth Betz, who is the head of digital transformation at Funke Mediengruppe, one of Germany’s largest newspaper and magazine publishers, with more than 500 publications across eight countries. In this role, Betz oversees the print to digital conversion of Funke Mediengruppe’s news outlets, working to ensure that they adopt sustainable business models as they transform from print to digital-first publications. 

Over the last several months, Betz took part in one of Facebook’s Reader Revenue Accelerator Programs — this one in Berlin — which is training 14 local publishers from across Germany and Austria on how to build their revenues from digital subscriptions. 

She spoke with us about her efforts overseeing the print to digital conversion of Funke Mediengruppe’s news outlets, discussing the challenges and successes she’s experienced along the way, and where the work may go in the future. 

We don’t think in devices anymore. We think in users now. So we say there’s a user out there and he wants something, and it doesn’t matter for us if he wants to read it on mobile or on the website or the app or in the e-paper or in print. Wherever he wants to read it, we want to give it to him. That is the main idea. So that’s what we call user first.

Dr. Ruth Betz

Enjoy the episode below.

All podcast episodes are available on SoundCloud.

This podcast was produced by the International Journalists’ Network. If you are interested in IJNet’s new podcast series on publishing, you can view all their episodes here.