Annual review and outlook 2021
Eventful weeks and months lie behind us, which have not only put our industry to the test. Yet we have successfully mastered this time and – by creating new paths and new opportunities – have proven that alfa Media is and will continue to be a competent partner for the future. We are planning further extensive simplifications and expansions for our customers in 2021 – in all areas. New initiatives are also in the pipeline, which will be further developed in the coming year in order to be ready for the market in 2021. In our interview at the end of the year, CEO Jens Emmerich talks about the opportunities and plans of alfa Media and the media industry.
2020 was a remarkable year for our industry. What experiences from this initial situation will flow into the coming years development?
Jens Emmerich: Digitisation and automation have been buzzwords that have come up again and again, and have made many within our industry go into overdrive. Neither aspect is unknown or new, but the Covid 19 issue has caused an enormous acceleration of known or existing trends. Our strategy, which we at alfa Media have been pursuing for quite some time, has thus been confirmed, because: Digital is the way of the future. Many of our products have long been operated in the browser, independent of location, so that, for example, a changeover to home office could be implemented for our customers in the spring of 2020 without great effort.
Especially due to employees being sent into home office in many companies and publishing houses and the partially orphaned offices, a digital newsroom was also an important means to network and organise. With our well-established EditorialOrganiser, alfa Media’s Digital Experience Platform, we hit the nerve of these times.
Keyword “digital newsroom”. This practice has moved into focus for many publishers in 2020. What further impulses does this open up for alfa Media?
Jens Emmerich: A fully functional home office with a digital newsroom is not only crucial for individual employees; ultimately, the whole team and thus the entire publishing house benefits from this practice. Networking – being together without being with each other – is certainly an impulse that will continue to gain in importance in the coming years. In general, the most effective way is the centralised control of all content via a single platform. For several years now, all this has been possible with our EditorialOrganiser. We can draw on a wide range of experience and therefore act as a “best practice broker” for our customers and provide support in all matters, without neglecting the individuality of each customer. This is how we continue to create the most efficient solutions in the digital sector. However, the possible uses of our digital newsroom tool go much further, because the EditoralOrganiser can achieve great things as a digital experience platform for the area of content marketing. This combination, where content is at the centre, is a project that we want to push further in 2021, even though we have been pursuing this approach since 2008. alfa Media can actively support you in viewing the work of other teams and finding synergies between content campaigns. In this way, you don’t just network via social media, but already during content creation and planning, in order to represent optimal cooperation and a uniform and comprehensive image to the outside world. The strategy is decisive here, because it is the all-encompassing information about the content activities and is directly and transparently linked to all workflow steps.
How does alfa Media help modernise new ideas, new user experiences and core processes in a commercially viable way?
Jens Emmerich: We pursue this approach continuously. Thanks to our numerous installations in the national and international sector, we have manifold insights into the process reality of publishing and media houses. We are aware that models have regional or even local characteristics. But as a source of inspiration, such a wealth of experience is always extremely helpful. In this way, practical ideas can be taken up in order to adapt our portfolio even better to the needs of the market and the customers. As a best practice expert, we can also create synergies and point out possibilities to initiate successful formulas for projects, developments and processes.
Less training and more intuitive operation are also key to creating a modern and efficient system. Because the “gut feeling” of handling apps can also be applied to business applications, which strengthens the effectiveness of the programmes. To implement this in a well-founded and clever way is a matter of great concern to us.
So the goal is to make things simpler and increasingly focus on “plug & play”?
Jens Emmerich: Yes, of course! In the media industry, the time factor is not only important in content publishing. With automation mechanisms and the use of AI, we have already been able to achieve significant successes that enrich and simplify daily business enormously. Be it an automatic output scheduling system, the keywording of texts and images or a template-based generation of digital advertisements. In addition, our new deployment – our “version philosophy” – is part of the “plug & play” approach: We can install new versions and updates much faster and easier. Among other things, this also means that fewer tests have to be carried out on the customer side. This even goes so far that we have customers who can now do without the internal integration system because of the smooth process.
What are the most impactful developments at alfa, what is the challenge for the year ahead?
Jens Emmerich: Digitality within the industry, i.e. the networking of “digital and reality”, of “online and offline”, of “new and old” will continue to be decisive. It is important to make the best possible use of the existing potential and to allow optimisations and also innovations. For example, there is no longer a need for Excel lists that have to be laboriously maintained and distributed to everyone all the time. With our digital newsroom EditorialOrganiser, a digital reality can easily become an actual reality; our tool helps planning to become a living, dynamic workflow, completely independent of location. Creating a digital strategy tailored to each individual, also within new markets, is one of our concerns for 2021. But with all the strategy, we must by no means forget the content, which is ultimately the core. We can score with the best possible user experience for online, print, mobile devices, social media, local or national target groups. Our new block editor makes the channel-specific preparation of stories and articles even easier. Flexible working with content, drag-and-drop of media content, adding and moving paragraphs and blocks … Our block editor combines the flexibility of a block editor with the guiding functions of the publisher’s specifications to create your content attractively, intuitively and time-efficiently.
Our latest developments for 2021 should not go unmentioned here: With alfa CreateX, we are introducing a new link that is tailored to the exchange with typesetting service providers. Many publishers and media houses have long since outsourced their typesetting work to external typesetting service providers. The application thus serves both the publisher and the typesetting service provider as a tool, medium and intermediary for working on the product and exchanging information with each other. alfa Snap is also in the pipeline: Thanks to the new Sales App, you have quick access to your entire business processes. All relevant facts and options around sales are virtually in your pocket. Snap is a native app for Android and iOS. Offline use via caching allows you to work without constant network access, which is particularly advantageous in rural areas with poor network coverage.
At the same time, we are further expanding sales support to provide your salespeople with a tool that is perfectly tailored to them. In the course of this, our campaign management will also receive a redesign in order to exceed these requirements. Intelligent processes in our CRM area can support sales – we have a lot in the pipeline! Especially the publishing calendar, the heart of every publishing house, where the monitoring and management of all publishing processes converge, will receive special attention. We are expanding inventory management to include digital disposition, so that the allocation of your web presences is also fully integrated in the overview.
We are looking forward to an exciting and development-filled new year!
Many thanks to Jens Emmerich for the interview!