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Burda’s Martin Weiss on how publishers need to expand globally

Burda is one of Europe’s most prominent media companies with a portfolio of products that are active in as many as 19 markets. It has also been very successful in developing a strong digital offering to complement its 320 magazine media brands.

The company is continuing to eye international expansion and recently brought in Martin Weiss, founder of the management consulting company Solon, as head of its Burda Digital Brands International group to develop strategies in nascent markets. 

Martin will be one of the speakers at the Digital Innovators’ Summit (DIS) in Berlin, Germany from 20-22 March 2016. Our discounted, pre-agenda booking option (with savings of at least €800 on final delegate rates) ends soon, so book today.

Here he talks to DIS contributor Ashley Norris about how Burda is executing that strategy, which markets might be the most lucrative for publishing companies and which startups have caught his eye.

Which countries do you see as most ripe for digital expansion by European media companies, and why? 

The digital transformation is affecting all countries in Europe and even the most remote corners of the globe are now being swept over with a wave of cheap smartphones. And that is all you need for an acceleration of new forms of digital media consumption.

The increasing ubiquity of mobile browsing present an opportunity for publishers – but easy success it is not. Your views?

Clearly it is an opportunity: new customers, new business models, new forms of delivering content. But if you are not moving fast to change your thinking of how you use your content and what you deliver to your customer on mobile, your media brands will become much less relevant

How do you intend to execute your strategy for Burda? Is it all about new sites, extensions of existing ones or will you be investing in buying ventures?

At Burda we have a two-pronged approach: of course we extend our existing brands and contents into digital models, but we are also constantly on the look-out for digital-first and mobile-first companies. We provide capital for growth and know-how for expansion. Today Burda is over 60 per cent digital, only 40 per cent print. And that mix is changing to the benefit of digital.

Do you think European media companies should be investing in local tech companies and then using them as a base to roll out content companies?

Investing into local tech companies is a necessity if you really want to drive growth. Not to enable your own content businesses – but to use your assets to help these independent businesses thrive

How big a market do you think Africa will become for European media companies?

The dynamism of Africa is obvious and can be contagious. But it is early days still, and the uncertainties around regulatory and political frameworks and also exchange rates means that investment cases are for the very long term and probably not for the faint-hearted. I am impressed by the commitment our colleagues at Ringier are showing.

Which Asian markets do you think could more profitable for European media brands?

Transporting brands from a European to an Asian environment has not always been easy – but in the Luxury/Fashion/Lifestyle segment it has probably worked best so far.

Does the aggressive expansion of North American brands like Vice Media and BuzzFeed worry you? Might they be serendipitously creating opportunities for European companies?

These Internet media brands should give all publishers food for thought. What are these companies doing right? They are obviously attracting consumers by the millions, and their fan base and followers are growing at staggering rates. Clearly, there handling of the content creation process is different, but also their content distribution mechanism is completely geared towards social. Their customers are their distributors.

Which recent media startups have impressed you?

There are many, but the Israeli/US startup Playbuzz stands out. They use technology to enable media companies to create content formats predominantly focusing on social media. Their shared stories have more reach than BuzzFeed or Mashable.

* Martin will be one of the speakers at the Digital Innovators’ Summit (DIS) in Berlin, Germany from 20-22 March 2016. Our discounted, pre-agenda booking option (with savings of at least €800 on final delegate rates) ends soon, so book today.

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