Category: Blog
Author: Silke Jungblut

Opportunities of digital disruption

When we hear the term “digital disruption”, we are confronted with two words that often give us a headache. While digital transformation brings with it a multitude of opportunities and is emblematic of the future, it is also associated with the corresponding difficulties. Especially in our industry, there seem to be more hurdles and disadvantages than advantages and opportunities. Disruption doesn’t make it any better, as we tend to associate this term with brute force. After all, to destroy something is to make it unusable. Nevertheless, we should give digital disruption a chance and examine it for its positive aspects.

The compulsion to redesign

Disruption does not mean systematically breaking down an existing product into its individual parts in order to put combinations of them together in a new form, but to be able to allow the idea of thinking in a completely new way. The idea is not to analyse just one part of the product or service, but to initiate a comprehensive redesign.

One risk, for example, is to see digitalisation as a by-product. In the newspaper industry, it is known that it is not enough to simply offer the print articles online. After all, online and print are different worlds with different target groups. Surely the statistics of their target groups are a regular assessment point you use for analysis.

The share of newspaper readers only exceeds 20 % ( of the population when they are over 50 years old. Young people hardly ever resort to the medium of the print daily newspaper. In the online world, however, where younger target groups cavort, different rules of the game apply than in the print sector. SEO optimisations, readability itself and the difference in topic relevance, to name just a few examples. If we then take a look at the social media, different formats come into play, a very unique approach and hashtags, markers as well as their own trends to generate reach. Each channel has its own rules and preferences, but also its own target groups. Facebook, for example, is no longer as “hip” as it used to be. While middle-aged people use the platform regularly, the trend shows that young people tend to switch to alternatives like Instagram and TikTok. So when it comes to digitisation strategies, it is essential to put the target groups in relation to the channels and their individual rules of the game, to pick up the appropriate media and to gather enough knowledge about the channels.

You see, simply “pushing up” the articles already created is not enough for a digital strategy. On the contrary, they can ensure that you are not even noticed as a digital player or – even worse – devalued and earn a corresponding reputation. This means that you are quickly left behind by your competitors and lose a competitive advantage. This is exacerbated by the fact that a superficial digital strategy suggests that you are already in the middle of the digital transformation, which is not actually taking place and is therefore not being initiated.

Be bold – implement your digital strategy disruptively

Plan your digital strategy comprehensively. Have the courage to “throw away” your tried and tested products in order to create the space to think completely new. What would your publishing house look like in five years if you continue on the current path? Or what opportunities might arise if you execute your digital strategy in a disruptive and all-encompassing way? What opportunities have you not considered so far because you did not fit into your previous path or traditional vision? Would there possibly be potential here for a redesign? Dare to allow and evaluate even crazy ideas. Digital disruption can help you break down old rules and ways of thinking. Have the courage to be distruptive, consider the possibility of destruction.

9 years back

Many already know it, but let’s take another look at the past anyway. The Washington Post, a renowned name in the news world, had to nibble away at the crisis in newspaper publishing just like everyone else. Subscribers dropped away, advertising revenues became scarcer and revenues kept falling. The means to change anything thus shrank as well.

The turning point came with the purchase of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. Admittedly, the purchase certainly added financial resources that many a publisher would fight over, and it is always more difficult to take risks when only a few coins are ringing in one’s wallet. Nevertheless, let’s look at the development: Jeff Bezos saw digital disruption as an opportunity, or the internet as a gift. This mantra also ran through the transformation of the publishing strategy and rethinking. The Post itself became a mobile online product that wanted to do without a printed newspaper. Hardly conceivable in today’s world, where the bulk of revenue is still fed by the print product. And yet the strategy has also paid off on the financial model. Not only did the number of subscribers rise again, but further opportunities presented themselves with further development. Articles that had already been published were subsequently updated several times a day to add new insights or realities. Reporting went from being static to a dynamic product that was not simply handed out. A change that proved successful and is now used by many publishers worldwide: The newspaper became alive.

The evolution even went so far as to enter into partnership agreements with other newspaper publishers who shared articles from the Washington Post on their websites; and gave a premium of the advertising revenue to the Post. The same article thus generated additional revenue. Without any significant extra work. This made the Washington Post a serious competitor not only to the big newspaper publishers, but even to the digital provider Buzzfeed.

Admittedly …

… as already mentioned in the above section, it is always easier to think disruptively when your existence is not at stake because someone in the background has your back with financial security. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to allow and encourage disruptive thinking for once. If the financial resources do not bear the risk, it may be possible to restructure and rethink certain areas.

It is important to remain open-minded and to promote a flexible mindset that does not immediately reject new channels, for example, but sees them as an opportunity to expand and optimise one’s own strategy.

In this sense: stay curious.