European publishing giant Axel Springer announced today it is selling its 35 percent stake in Ringier Axel Springer Schweiz (RASCH) to Swiss publisher Ringier, its partner in the joint venture. Axel Springer says the sale is motivated largely by its focus on driving digital revenues, as it seeks to become a purely digital media company.
RASCH runs a number of popular consumer and B2B magazines and journals in Switzerland, including Schweizer Illustrierte, TELE, TV-Star and GlücksPost. While RASCH’s portfolio contains digital elements, it’s a print-heavy business, hence why Axel Springer is offloading its stake. In Poland meanwhile, Axel Springer and Ringier will continue to collaborate, since their joint portfolio there is more digitally focussed.
“Already today, almost 90 percent of our revenues are generated in the digital business,” said Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer SE. “It is our declared goal to establish Axel Springer as a purely digital media company. Therefore, the sale of our shares in Ringier Axel Springer Schweiz is a logical step for us, whose 20 media brands are in excellent hands with Ringier.”
The future won’t wait
While the vast majority of news publishers have prioritised growth of digital revenues, Axel Springer has been one of the most committed. While many are looking to increase digital ad and subscription revenues while maintaining their print businesses as best they can, Axel Springer is looking to move out of the print game entirely.
And the publisher says this strategy is already delivering. In its H1 results earlier this year, despite a tough advertising market for news journalism, revenues held firm. In Germany, the company saw significant year-on-year growth in ad revenues.
Axel Springer is working to stay ahead of the curve on artificial intelligence too. The company has announced a series of integrations with OpenAI to integrate its content into ChatGPT. And Döpfner has acknowledged that generative AI will necessitate change in how publishers like Axel Springer create and distribute content. In an internal letter earlier this year, he said that AI “has the potential to make independent journalism better than it ever was – or simply replace it”. He added that “understanding this change is essential to a publishing house’s future viability”, and that “only those who create the best original content will survive”.