Category winner: Axel Springer in 2014:
Strategic Leadership of the Digital Media Transformation
Who – the protagonists
Mathias Döpfner, CEO of the publishing house Axel Springer SE.
Axel Springer is a leading source of content in Germany with its popular newspapers and magazines such as Bild and Die Welt.
In 2013, Mathias was evaluating the progress of his company’s digital transformation. The advent of the digital revolution at the end of the twentieth century had caused an appreciable shift in the publishing industry. Traditional print media players were confronted with major technological advancements plus changes in consumer tastes and how news was consumed.
The challenge for Axel Springer was to find fresh ways to distribute, monetise, and further develop its traditional products.
Publisher Hinrich Springer and his son Axel founded Axel Springer in 1946. In 1953, it acquired the publishing house Die Welt, including its national daily and weekly newspaper. By 1959, the company had purchased a majority stake in the newspaper and book publishing business, Ullstein GmbH, and was established as a major player in the industry. In 2006, the company focused on organic growth and late-stage digital acquisitions. By 2013, Mathias had formulated the firm’s corporate mission to become ‘the leading digital publisher’.
The company’s headquarters are in Berlin, Germany, and it operates across 40 countries worldwide.
‘In business, I work under the rule of only the paranoid survive. I try to take into account the things that can go terribly wrong to avoid negative surprises.’ – Mathias Döpfner
Mathias was excited about the additional strategic opportunities digitalisation presented, but knew he needed Axel Springer to stay up to date with consumer preferences, reaffirm the company’s identity, and continue to pioneer the cultural transition within the organisation. He needed to deal with the potential threats coming from the new media technology giants and decide on the next digital strategic moves for Axel Springer in Germany, Europe, and the rest of the world.
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