Photographer: Tom Hall/Bloomberg

Axel Springer Considers Paywall for Business Insider, Upday App

  • Company plans to start charging for some content next year
  • Buys remaining classifieds unit stake for 465 million euros

Europe’s biggest newspaper publisher is betting it can make money from digital news by winning paying readers in the region and the U.S.

Axel Springer SE plans to start charging for some content on its largely ad-financed Upday mobile news application in the second half of next year, Jan-Eric Peters, the app’s chief product officer, said at an event on Tuesday.  Upday is still in beta testing and won’t be officially released until early 2016. The Berlin-based publisher is also considering a subscription model for Business Insider, which it agreed to take over in a $343 million deal in September.

The changes are part of a wider plan by Chief Executive Officer Mathias Doepfner to spend aggressively on digital media, mainly in the English-speaking world. Axel Springer on Tuesday said it raised its stake in New York-based social video producer NowThis Media Inc. to 14.6 percent from 4.3 percent, after leading a $16 million funding round. It’s also backing Thrillist Media Group, a lifestyle portal targeting male readers.

While Axel Springer is “full of optimism” on its U.S. push, “some things will work out while others may fail,” Doepfner,  a former rock music critic, told reporters in Berlin. “Money follows attention -- hopefully."

The publisher also said Wednesday it bought the remaining 15 percent in its digital classifieds unit from General Atlantic LLC for about 465 million euros ($508 million) in stock based on Axel Springer’s closing price of 51.94 euros in Frankfurt Tuesday. The unit operates job and real estate portals such as Totaljobs and Immowelt as well as Israeli classifieds portal Yad2.

The Upday app will be launched exclusively on Samsung Electronics Co. smartphones next year, Axel Springer said. The publisher is in talks with the South Korean company to pre-install the app prominently on its devices, which are the best-selling in Europe.

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