Christoph Keese, Executive Vice President of Axel Springer, visited the Berlin campus of the University of Applied Sciences Europe (UE) last Thursday. He caused quite a stir in the world of journalism in Germany and brought this fresh air to invigorate the students.
1:0 for Digitalization
Above all Keese‘s focus lies on the digitalization of journalism. Strong online presence has been putting pressures on traditional media to evolve. As Christoph Keese told our students and guests:”The old established business model of print media is based on financing through a combination of subscriptions and advertisements. Thus you are active in two markets at the same time, the reader and advertising market. But the classic model became obsolete with digitalization!”
The straight newspaper business in the classical sense is no longer profitable for most publishers. The number of products sold has been steadily decreasing. Publishers have had to jump on the paid content bandwagon.
No innovations in the German market
How is the German market reacting to digitalization? “There are start-ups founded by journalists that are super successful. But few of them in Germany, zero to be exact. Why don’t you just found one?” With this remark Christoph Keese stepped on his colleagues’ toes at a conference. With his overseas experiences in Silicon Valley, he knows how to run a successful start-up. In Germany there is a lack of courage to establish independent publishing houses. The status quo is taken as a given. Improvements and new ideas are not realized and creativity is not fostered. Keese is appalled by the situation and cannot understand his colleagues.
“But where would you get the money and find the sponsors for such a project?” asked one interested student. “Many assume from the beginning that they won’t be financed by publishers. I work at a publisher, and in my position the investment requests land on my desk. There has not been a single person in the last 15 years who asked me whether Springer would support his or her start-up plan.”
Courage for the new ideas, courage to be oneself
Christoph Keese is a man who sees the advances in digitalization as a new opportunity: a chance to build something of your own. “Be authentic, write what you want to write and what you yourself want to read, but at a high professional level. Do not get depressed. We are at the threshold of a golden age of information. In the digital age, information is enormously important and it will always be so.” With those words Christoph Keese concluded his lecture to the students with a rallying cry and call to stir things up after successful completion of their degrees, for example in Journalism.