- Axel Springer to expand U.S. news site's audience, products
- CEO sees limited impact from ad-blocking tools on sales
Axel Springer SE is considering introducing paid subscription options at Business Insider, the news site Europe’s biggest newspaper publisher agreed to take over in a $343 million deal in September.
While Business Insider already sells research via its BI Intelligence product, the main brand may introduce "subscription elements" for part of its news content in the medium term, Axel Springer Chief Executive Officer Mathias Doepfner said Wednesday in Barcelona at a conference organized by Morgan Stanley.
Business Insider also plans to expand video and general-interest content and may add more special-interest topics that can eventually be monetized, he said.
"Money follows attention and follows reach,” Doepfner said. “Step by step we are preparing our basis for long-term growth and profitability maximization in the U.S. market."
Business Insider gives Doepfner, who worked his way from the newsroom to the executive suite, a high-profile opportunity to prove he can make news pay in the Internet age and win over readers in the U.S. and Britain. Since taking over at Axel Springer in 2002, he’s used a string of acquisitions to turn the publisher of the best-selling tabloid Bild into a digital-first operator of online news and advertising portals that he touts as a model for 21st century media.
Doepfner said he’s not worried that software blocking online ads will take a chunk out of advertising revenues. Two-thirds of Bild.de’s readers switched off their ad-blocking tools after Axel Springer asked them to do so or pay for content.
Other news providers are eyeing similar steps "and if that works, that would limit the role of ad blockers significantly,” he said.
Doepfner, who sits on the boards of Time Warner Inc. and Vodafone Group Plc, has sought to expand outside continental Europe. He’s dispatched executives on extended trips to Silicon Valley to look for new ideas, and in 2014 Springer opened an investment arm there to buy into tech startups.