As one of Europe’s leading publishing houses, Gruner + Jahr has been through a period of major transition. Julia Jäkel, CEO, sets out how the business has managed that, and outlines the path for the future…
She spoke to FIPP contributor Jon Watkins ahead of the 41st FIPP World Congress, where she will participate as a speaker.
We are a publishing house that creates media products for a digital society; our core publishing markets are Germany and France, while our digital ventures are globally aligned. And we live and breathe journalism. We have spent the last few years significantly expanding our digital business, while always remaining firmly committed to creating high-impact magazines. This is the embodiment of the G+J strategy, based on two pillars: continuing to be the best magazine maker, while powering digital business for our strong brands.
G+J’s digital business is split across two areas: digital publishing and ad tech. On the digital publishing side, we are the market leader in Germany in the women’s, food, living and parenting segments; we also have a strong foothold in people and news. One of our titles is Brigitte, a major women’s brand which has more than 60 years of history and has become the number one portal for women online, while in France we are now one of the leading providers of video content.
In terms of our second key digital business, ad tech, we have become Europe’s biggest supplier of native ad solutions through Ligatus, and AppLike – a G+J start-up which is available in 15 countries around the world – and represents the fastest-growing ad tech company in Germany. Our Greenhouse Innovation Lab is dedicated to developing new ideas and new business models such as AppLike.
Overall, digital business represents around a quarter of our business and is growing strong. However, our goal is not to become the most digitised publishing house, but the most innovative one, and so we are equally thrilled when the 25 magazines we have launched since 2015 are successful.
***Jäkel will be our opening keynote on Day 2, 11 October, of the FIPP World Congress. Visit fippcongress.com to find out more, or to join her, more than hundred other speakers and some 700 delegates from 40+ countries in London. The Congress takes place from 9-11 October***
Transformation begins in your mind: with convictions, with culture, with a willingness to change. Over the last years we gave a lot of responsibility to talented managers, who have been second in line to prominent seniors for a long time. Today we are much faster and more hands-on when it comes to launching new magazines. We have proven to everyone that innovation in print is possible. That has a strong impact on a company. At the same time we have hired digital talent and invested in our digital business; also we have completely changed the way we communicate. Today we always address our employees first, not only when it comes to delivering good news, but also when something does not go according to plan: in November, we will hold our second “fuck-up night”, all about learning from our mistakes. This new culture makes us an attractive employer for young people. I believe the spirit within a company plays a key role in its success.
We have achieved a great deal over the last few years: G+J has become more digital. We have shown how new magazines can achieve six-figure print runs and be profitable in year one. We have ventured into totally new business segments – we run academies, we build furniture, we organise culinary guided tours. But we’ll never reach a point where we say: “We’ve done it, this is the new G+J and this is how it’ll stay”.
Digital society is only just getting started, and no one really knows the true impact that artificial intelligence, for example, will have on our lives and on our industry. G+J will remain agile – and will continue to be a publishing house. As to where this evolution will take us; who knows? What I do know is that how far we get, and the level of success we achieve, is down to us.
One of the biggest challenges for us – like so many other industries – is the supremacy of a few digital enterprises. They communicate and manage more data than any other company or government in the history of humanity. Every other dollar of global advertising revenue flows their way – plus 80 cents of every new dollar spent on advertising. I really hope we all find a joint solution here. High-quality journalism is a key constituent of any democratic society.
Meet Julia Jäkel at the 41st FIPP World Congress, taking place from 9-11 October in London. Visit fippcongress.com for more and/or to register.
More like this
Consumer-facing publishers may soon be adding visual search to their e-commerce offerings, if visual search takes off. Outlined by Jenny Griffiths, founder and CEO of Snap Tech, at the Digital Innovator’s Summit in Berlin March 20, technologies like Snap Tech may change the way the world shops, which would be especially valuable for publishers.20th Mar 2018 Features
With countless publishing brands battling to maintain cash-flow and build a solid business model, many are pinning their hopes on building subscription businesses. During this week’s Digital Innovators’ Summit (DIS) in Berlin the topic proved to be a recurring theme.20th Mar 2018 Features
Throughout DIS 2018 representatives of companies from across the globe have taken to the stage to share their insights about how they are growing their businesses. For the mid morning segment on the second day, execs from two tech based companies, both of whom have a very strong print heritage, explained how they had adapted their business models and where they are likely to venture to in the future. They both constantly referenced premium quality content as being at the core of their strategy.20th Mar 2018 Features
As voice-activated devices and services become more ubiquitous, new opportunities are opening up for publishers to reach users. On day two of the Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin, Alexander Bregman, Strategic Partner Development Manager at Google EMEA, explained how the combination of Google Assistant and the rise of smart speakers could lead to great partnerships with publishers in the very near future.20th Mar 2018 Features
When I look at the state of mainstream media, I can’t help but ask the question. Why are so many news publishers pivoting back to paywalls when they didn’t work for most of them before?12th Mar 2018 Opinion
While digital titles specialising in health and well-being are showing strong growth in developed markets such as Finland, the next step is to lead consumers from inspiration to transaction, and to go global, says new FIPP board member Kaisa Ala-Laurila, CEO of A-lehdet in Finland.12th Mar 2018 Features
It’s been another year of rapid change and innovative publishers continue to assemble a quiver full of new solutions to drive their businesses forward – something that becomes apparent when you page through the new 2018/19 edition of Innovation in Magazine Media 2018-2019 World Report, launched today at Digital Innovators’ Summit (DIS) in Berlin.19th Mar 2018 Features
Maureen Hoch, editor of Harvard Business Review’s HBR.org on Monday provided insight into the experimental work HBR has been doing with new media formats in the past year to reach and engage audiences, including subscribers, in new ways.19th Mar 2018 Features
“The notion that print is dead is not accurate. I think print isn’t dead, it’s just different. Gone are the times where you can operate with an inflated rate base or 12 times per year as a standard. And I think gone are the days too where you were just concerned with whether there was enough fax paper in the machine where you got all of your signed insertion orders back. Those days are behind us. But print for many companies, Bonnier included, is still profitable. It’s just not at the margins that we once enjoyed. And I feel strongly that brands that sit one or two in a category or vertical can thrive if managed correctly.” - Eric Zinczenko, CEO, Bonnier Corporation12th Mar 2018 Features
Visit our Youtube channelFIND OUT MORE
FIPP newsletters allow you to keep up with industry trends, research, training and events across the worldFIND OUT MORE
Get global coverage of your launches, company news and innovationsFIND OUT MORE
What’s happening now, what’s coming next