Shaping the future of a regional publisher

Several years ago, Germany’s Schwäbisch Media began an extensive transformation of the company. As it went through the process, the Ravensburg-based publishing house developed seven strategic key factors to handle the digital transformation of the local publishing business:

by Brian Veseling | August 1, 2016

  • Build a strong corporate brand
  • Be attractive for the best employees
  • Strengthen the journalistic content
  • Achieve customer satisfaction
  • Buildup know-how in new technologies
  • Optimise cost and process efficiency
  • Create growth through innovation in digital and services

Kurt Sabathil, the Managing Director of Schwäbisch Media, will be speaking at Digital Media World & Print World on 10 October during a common session titled ”Transforming media companies” from 10:00 to 11:30 h. These conferences will take place alongside World Publishing Expo 2016, from 10 to 12 October.

In this recent email interview, Sabathil discussed the changes the company has undergone and how its customers have reacted to their transformation.

WAN-IFRA: Can you tell us a little about the background of your transformation project? For example, the general timeline – when it started and what it involved?

Sabathil: The transformation project started when I took over the position as Managing Director in January 2009.

First, we started to refresh the existing brands and build a new company brand Schwäbisch Media, then we built up the editors and digital department for new digital products, built a new office building with open space and new communication facilities, installed a complete digital workflow and hired new employees with programming, social media and new technology skills.

How did you come up with the seven strategic key factors you used?

This developed over time. When you analyse the market development and look at the future possibilities, you know what’s needed piece by piece. The most important factor is personnel, you need good and skilled employees to shape the future of the company.

What are some of your numbers in terms of print circulation and unique monthly visitors to your site?

Our print circulation is almost 170,000 daily, and we have a million unique users a month.

How many staff do you have in your newsroom and does everyone work for all platforms or do you have specialists?

Our newsroom staff is 178 employees, of them 24 crossmedia trainees and 7 online/social-media-specialists. All of them work for all platforms.

How are you using social media to distribute your content?

We are using Facebook (75,000 Likes) to enhance the reach by posting short, relevant news of the region, Twitter (15,000 Followers in 22 channels) to network contacts, Instagram (2,000 Followers) for emotional marketing by teasing the best pictures of our region and WhatsApp (11,000 subscribers) to target our audience. In addition, we are testing Snapchat at the moment.

Do you have staff who are only working with social media?

We employ one specialised Social Media Manager. We educate all editors in social medial skills, lots of them are using them.

What has the reaction been like to your transformation project from your readers and advertisers?

End of July 2016 we have 14,000 subscribers for our digital products. The users like our multimedia approach with many local videos. The advertisers appreciate our crossmedia approach with competence in print, digital, radio/TV and services like organizing events and fairs.

The people recognise us as a modern, future oriented company with competence not only in print but also in digital, video and social media areas. We are happy with the positive reaction of our customisers to our transformation project.

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