Ringier AG is one of the pioneers of digital transformation in the German-speaking media industry. But what exactly has the Swiss media company done differently within the last years? In this interview, Head of Publishing Technology & Services Marcus Dauck talks about the advantages of a central content platform, artificial intelligence in journalism, and the media industry as a role model for other industries.
You initiated the digital transformation in your company more than ten years ago. What distinguishes a traditional publishing house from a diversified, digital, and global media company?
Marcus Dauck: Transformation is a must and new revenue models always require investments. We recognized early on that a pure focus on print is not a promising model for the future. As an international media group, we have taken the opportunity to break new ground across countries and share the individual lessons learned internally. But in my opinion, this should also apply to smaller local media companies. The main question is: Is there a way to make transformation a daily norm and live cultural change within the company?
You recently launched a French Blick.ch news website for the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Are new channels and platforms a must for media companies, even in challenging times?
Marcus Dauck: Absolutely. We see how quickly new platforms emerge around us and also disappear again. It is important that our media offerings are attractive to the respective target group. Therefore, it is necessary to reinvent ourselves continuously. In print and digital, we often serve different target groups, and accordingly, we need relevance for the user and the reader. Our media brands must be where the audience expects them to be. So, it is about finding the right content for each platform. In addition to the use of new formats such as video or podcast, excellent journalistic research is still an important criterion.
What are the groundbreaking lessons you have learned as one of the pioneers of digitalization in your industry?
Marcus Dauck: In my opinion, it is essential not to simply develop a digital product. The transformation process should rather follow a vision and be carried out with a certain persistence. The cultural changes should be incorporated into the DNA of the organization. You also need to have the courage to experiment with certain products or strategies. And this is not always about making large financial investments. It is even more important to create a safe space for professional freedom and new ideas. We have often used an MVP (minimum viable product) approach to test new things. Simultaneously, you should also be brave enough to admit when you fail. Stop a project, shake it off, and then start again.
That sounds like an exciting error culture. How did you come to this?
Marcus Dauck: In the current situation, we as a media industry have no other option than to take this path and have the courage to change. In doing so, we are setting an example for other industries that are perhaps a few years behind us. Because the pressure from outside has been and still is immense. We see that very clearly by how many media companies internationally have not been able to withstand this pressure and went away.
What role does the CUE DAM platform play in the digital transformation of your media company?
Marcus Dauck: We established CUE DAM as a content hub many years ago. This has helped us a lot in optimizing workflows and processes in the newsrooms and supporting the editorial staff with a very flexible technological solution. We have been able to move from print-first to content-first without any major issues because we gained a lot of efficiency and flexibility within the use of CUE DAM. All our content is stored in a central location where it can be accessed by everyone. For us, the focus of telling news stories is not on the format of the story, but on the story itself. The possibilities of CUE DAM have changed the way we work.
What are the advantages of a central platform for content creation like CUE DAM for all newsrooms?
Marcus Dauck: Our media company can make our workflows much more efficient. Regardless of where the content comes from, whether it's from our colleagues internally, external freelancers, or agencies, all content is brought together centrally in one place. This allows the playout of the news story to be channel-independent. Text translations, versioning, and even proof of use for images play an important role in daily journalistic work and are maintained within CUE DAM. We were able to bring all these important tasks together with the help of the platform. Even spin-offs or special formats are saved centrally this way.
What do you see as the next big technical step in your digitalization strategy?
Marcus Dauck: I am firmly convinced that there will not be one major technical step. After having already taken the big leap towards centralizing our content creation in the cloud, there will now rather be many small steps, which should be connected as well as possible. Our constant driver is the desire for change and better products. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are already an integral part of our production. Nevertheless, we will continue to expand these practices to remain at the forefront of technology.
With your project "EqualVoice", you have developed a semantic algorithm for more equality and are using AI specifically for this. How did this innovative project come about?
Marcus Dauck: In 2019 we launched our EqualVoice Initiative. The initiative aims to increase the visibility of women in the media and give them an equal voice and is built around the concept of the «EqualVoice-Factor». Instead of promoting quotas, Ringier is using its journalistic and technological influence to advocate gender equality. Using a semantic algorithm developed in-house, the EqualVoice factor measures the visibility of women in articles published by Ringier and Ringier Axel Springer Switzerland. As a result, the visibility of women in our publications is improving. A Group-wide EqualVoice Experts List was created last year as a search tool for use by all journalists at Ringier and Ringier Axel Springer Switzerland.