Axel Springer CEO Says Paid Online Bild Bodes Well for Ads

Axel Springer SE, Europe’s biggest newspaper publisher, said the online version of its flagship Bild daily has attracted more than 152,000 paying customers six months after the BILDPlus product was introduced.

“It’s an incredibly encouraging result, a payment culture seems to be taking hold in people’s heads,” Chief Executive Officer Mathias Doepfner told reporters at the company headquarters in Berlin yesterday. “If this trend holds up, it will become really interesting for ad customers as well.”

BILDPlus represents one of the European publishing industry’s biggest attempts to make money from journalistic content online. The paid-for online version of the country’s largest tabloid started on June 11 with a minimum monthly fee of 4.99 euros ($6.90). Most subscribers chose this cheapest option and more than a third chose to pay an additional 2.99 euros to have early access to German Bundesliga soccer clips.

The tabloid converted 1.1 percent of monthly visitors to its website into paying subscribers within the first six months, exceeding rates of 0.7 percent and 0.8 percent achieved by the New York Times and The Times of London, respectively, according to estimates by Axel Springer.

Getting readers to pay for Web content is important for publishers as print circulations decline. Bild had an average daily circulation of 2.63 million in the third quarter, down 7.5 percent from a year earlier.

The publisher’s shares were up 2.7 percent to 45.76 euros as of 10:03 a.m. in Frankfurt today. The stock gained 38 percent this year through yesterday, valuing the publisher at 4.4 billion euros. French publisher Lagardere SCA rose 0.6 percent in Paris trading.

Sale Approved

Axel Springer’s planned sale of its television magazines to Funke Mediengruppe GmbH may require divesting some assets in order to be allowed by regulators, Doepfner said. Germany’s Federal Cartel Office last week approved a sale of womens’ magazines and regional newspapers, part of a 920 million-euro agreement.

Axel Springer will change its reporting structure next year, abandoning the separation of print and digital, national and international operations, Doepfner said. From 2014, revenue will be divided into paid-for content, advertising and classifieds. The publisher this week agreed to acquire N24 Media GmbH to add news video content to its offering.

The company is scheduled to present its strategy to analysts and investors in Berlin today.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.