Many newspaper brands across the globe have in recent years transitioned from print-only products to offering digital versions.

Few though have been as ambitious in their digital transformations as WELT at Axel Springer. What once was a newspaper noted for its high-quality journalism is now also active in digital, audio and TV sectors too.

Yet how has the brand moved so seamlessly into a multiplatform era?

In this interview, Carolin Hulshoff Pol, CEO of the WELT Group at Axel Springer explains 

  • How independent quality journalism needs to be paid for
  • How she believes generative AI will impact the media
  • The challenge of reaching out to younger audiences

At FIPP World Media Congress in Cascais, Portugal, on 6-8 June, Carolin will be presenting The power of a 360º media group – how WELT has achieved its digital transformation.

For specially discounted tickets click here.

Here she responds to our rapid-round questions.

Who are you? And what is your role in the media/publishing? 

I am Carolin Hulshoff Pol. In autumn 2022 I became CEO of the WELT Group at Axel Springer. WELT is a premium multimedia brand that is active in the digital, print, TV and audio sector. In my role I always try to take our current activities to the next level. 

WELT is the first journalistic brand in the world that originally started with print, which will be purely digital in the future and more successful economically in terms of journalism than in the purely analogue times of the brand. 

So, my daily topics are: How can we use AI / Chat GPT for WELT? How can we optimise the overall teamwork throughout our different units? Which challenge is waiting around the next corner and how can we use this or that learning for WELT?

What have been the highlights of your career in media/publishing so far?

At WELT we have successfully completed two major transformations: Coming from an “only print” medium, we were the first publisher to live, empower and sometimes force “Digital Too”, introducing digital paid content in 2012. At the time it became clear to us that there would be no other option than to make users pay for independent quality journalism. 

From living the “Digital Too”-strategy we evolved to “Digital First”, always assessing our content firstly from a digital point of view and afterwards processing it into a print product. 

In addition, we formed WELT into a 360° media brand. We built several successful podcast formats and then completed our portfolio by acquiring a TV channel (former N24). We currently publish independent quality journalism every day in print, digitally, on TV and in audio. 

We are currently in the middle of a third transformation: WELT will one day be a “Digital Only” premium media brand that is economically successful. Thus, every action we contemplate is examined in the context of two major questions: 1. Is this paying dividends for our digital growth? 2. Does that pay off in terms of our economic success?

What do you see as the three key trends in the media? What will be your next steps in your business/company?

Obviously, AI, including Chat GPT, is a major current topic. At WELT we work on this in different task forces testing different use cases. Our aim is to find ways to optimise current processes that make the work of our valuable journalists, tech teams or other units easier.

In addition to AI, two further key topics are video and reels as well as the general engagement of users. Younger generations tend to consume news less through reading long texts but rather by watching videos on social media. How can we connect this to our quality journalism? Also, what can we do to make the consumption of WELT news more pleasant for our readers?

Anything else you’d like to tell Congress delegates?

I am looking forward to meeting new industry partners, discussing different challenges and finding solutions together!

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About Congress

The FIPP World Media Congress is a must-attend event for anyone in leadership positions in the media. Delegates can hear from an incredible range of media thought leaders and influencers while networking with their peers in the resort’s stunning venues and hotels.

For specially discounted tickets click here.