Markets find a way: Learning from European media companies

Matt Sanders | General Manager, DDM Publisher Solutions | @Sanders_Matt | July 1, 2015

Over the past five years, DDM has grown audience and revenue dramatically — the details being shared regularly through speeches, articles and workshops. We have hosted, visited, learned from and provided services to hundreds of publishers from 16 countries. From our growing connections and partners around North America and the world, we’ve learned and learned and learned.

We’ve shared our model and practices for digital success via strategy days with top media executives, and through our two-day BootCamps with directors, managers and digital leaders from across the globe. Our next BootCamps will be in Salt Lake City and Hamburg, Germany. In such settings, we try to be very open about our successes and failures. We trust such candor will benefit participants. Likewise, we glean ideas and best practices from our many interactions with global colleagues.

In June, I accompanied a Utah trade mission delegation to Western Europe to become better acquainted with the news media environment in preparation for our October BootCamp. I had the privilege of meeting with leaders from Telegraaf (Amsterdam), De Persgroep (Belgium), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), and the German headquarters of WAN-IFRA. In friendly settings, we took turns sharing some of the success and challenges we continue to experience. I came away grateful for the dignified air of these storied organizations and their commitment to find a way forward. Here are some observations from such visits, obviously omitting specific data and details discussed in confidence:

1. Newspaper disruption alive and well. Our friends at each stop face similar strains felt in North America. While all would wish it away, it is clear that the traditional newspaper operation is not adapting well to digital, and organizations worldwide now clearly see that it is neither fluke nor passing fancy. Each confirmed what we are seeing with not only desktop disruption, but also shifts to mobile. Each organization in subsequent countries face unique organizational and legal environments that add to their transformation challenges. But we also compared notes that advertisers regularly seek opportunities to work with notable publishing brands and are eager for news organizations to find digital success in markets.

2. Integrated user experience matters. European newspapers tend to invest heavily in a highly designed daily read. And that DNA is carrying over into the digital user experiences. The digital team at FAZ is working to harmonize the user experience across platforms with daily rhythms — tailoring its offering to match user needs on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and now smartwatchs. They each seem to know their audiences very well and are laser focused on mattering more to their lives in convenient ways. De Persgroep spoke of its regional audiences and how it has organized tech and administrative operations to support a multinational company (now in Belgium, Netherlands and Denmark) and workforce.

3. Markets always find a way. The cities of Amsterdam, Brussels and Frankfurt each bear the marks of change, resilience and innovation. The architecture, canals, high-speed highways, art and history tell tales of people and markets finding ways to survive and thrive. At the Telegraaf in Amsterdam, I learned how its PublisherMarket programmatic advertising network is generating substantial and very welcome revenue by providing much more efficient market operations to match buyers. It seemed so fitting to watch my new Dutch friends speak enthusiastically of digital auction efficiencies, the Netherlands long a world market maker in global commerce and shipping.