Use digital disruption to your advantage: 5 ways to grow as a regional publisher

October 18, 2018 – 6 min. read

Kurt Sabathil CUE Days 2018
Dr. Kurt, Sabathil, CEO of Schwäbish Media, doesn’t view a new digital reality as a threat to his business. “Digitalisation keeps us flying”, he says.

A continuously increasing digital world is an inevitable fact. So why not embrace it? That seems to be Dr. Kurt Sabathil’s uplifting and refreshing attitude. Here are his 5 strategies on how to survive the digital disruption as a regional publisher.

1. Build and be a corporate brand as regional champion

Dr Sabathil states that as a regional publisher, you don’t have the possibility of an ‘export model’ to grow your business. Geographically, you’re kind of stuck. This means that you should spend all your energy on being the best in the region - in all fields - whether it’s newspaper, digital, logistics, tv, services, etc.

“If you look at Google and Facebook, they can only do digital. We can do more than digital. We can do logistics, we can do print, we can do services. And therefore in these fields, you have to be better than all the others, even Google and Facebook, in your specific region", Dr. Sabathil says.

So how does Schwäbisch Media do it better than others in its region?

Firstly, this German Stibo DX client highlights that all of its products and services are under one roof. This way, advertisers and business partners can see that cross-media activities mixed with expert regional knowledge is what to expect when doing business with Schwäbisch Media.

Secondly, although Schwäbisch Media has the largest daily newspaper in the region, it is far from all 1.3 million people in the region that subscribe to 'Schwäbische Zeitung'. Therefore, Schwäbisch Media also produces several free regional and sub-local newspapers that are distributed to all non-subscribing households. This results in Schwäbisch Media reaching 90 % of the region’s population with either one publication or the other.

2. Take care of your core business

Dr. Sabathil states firmly: “don’t forget your core business: newspapers”. Even though it is slowly declining, Dr. Sabathil underscored the importance of not exclusively investing in digital products: “You have to invest in printed newspaper, not only in digital. Because this print business will continue at least another 10-20 years. So you have to keep it strong. You should not only use it as a cash cow and make it weak. Don’t just take out cash, also invest cash”.

3. Develop your staff

Dr. Sabathil acknowledges that it can be hard to recruit talented employees to work in an industry that for some has a reputation of ‘dying’. But he gladly spends resources on staff care and employer branding to be attractive for new and current employees.

Schwäbisch Media especially wants to appeal to the younger portion of the workforce because, as Dr. Sabathil says; you have to have young people in your organization to know what young people want to read and consume.

4. Use digitalization to streamline, automate, and enhance your internal processes

Dr. Sabathil sees digital disruption as a positive opportunity to optimize his business by streamlining, automating, and enhancing internal processes. But when investing in IT, it is imperative to invest in something future-proof. But how does Dr. Sabathil define a future-proof IT infrastructure?

“You have to invest in IT, and you have to think more simple and invest in flexible systems. Because the market requirements are changing quite fast, and in the future, they will change even faster. So if your IT infrastructure is not able to adjust to the new requirements, you will be gone”, he states.

5. Grow with new digital products and services

The final key strategy you need to survive the digital disruption, according to Dr. Sabathil, is quite simple: “You need more digital products and services”.

Schwäbisch Media has both produced a lot of new digital products in the news sphere, such as news apps, multimedia storytelling, digital leaflets, and a video portal for young people. But the company has also built up many digital services like a tourism portal, digital agency, cross-media agency, content agency for corporate communication, call centre agency, and a personnel agency.

So the company has now become much more than a news publisher. And with these services, Schwäbisch Media is also helping its customers to digitally transform, which is a vital part of Dr. Sabathil’s mission going into new kinds of businesses. Because, as he says; “If we don’t do it, Google will do it… And then we will lose”.