Events - 20.06.2013 - 00:00 

The digital express train

We are in the middle of a digital revolution. Not everybody has taken the step into the new era. But hardly any medium will be able to afford not to get on the digital express train.

19 June 2013. “We may be experiencing the most profound change in the history of the market economy.” Roger de Weck, Director General of SRG SSR, left no one in doubt about the significance of the new era with his introductory words. The HSG alumnus opened and moderated the morning of the 2013 HSG Alumni Forum with the title “1 or 0? Success in the digital age”. De Weck discerned a contemporary dichotomy: some people were still clinging to the past, while numerous others were already making use of the many new opportunities.

3.5 billion toothbrushes…
The dichotomy can also be described as a transformation stage, as Holger Greif did. He is Head of Digital Transformation and a partner of PwC in Zurich. The digital converters, most of whom still commute between digital and classic media, already constitute a majority among media consumers – but will not do so for long. Before the end of the decade, they will be overtaken by the digital natives, most of whom obtain their information through digital channels. Even now, those who describe themselves as classic media consumers are already a distinctive minority among HSG alumni. At least this was revealed by a mobile survey among 250 participants on St.Gallen’s Olma premises: more than 90 per cent saw themselves as digital converters or natives. “There are 3.5 billion toothbrushes in the world – and already more than 4 billion mobile devices…” said Holger Greif. This also answers the question as to the direction in which media consumption is developing. The digital (r)evolution is unstoppable and rapid.

What do people pay for?
This is why the classic print media have been under economic pressure ever since the emergence of the internet 15 years ago. Less and less advertising money is flowing into classic media products, which have st ill failed to find a new and comprehensive solution that would enable them to survive this digital change – not even by moving into the internet and the app store. “Which information problem can we solve for consumers? What are people prepared to pay for?” These are questions which Peter Hogenkamp, Head of Digital Media at the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), raised and to which there are still no sustainable answers. Many journalists were still treating digital media as second-class media, said Hogenkamp in a panel discussion, and of course second-class media were no money-spinners.

Image, text and sound rolled up in one
For decades, the motto was “breakfast, newspaper”, as Roger de Weck said. Today, however, the media had to meet people in completely different situations of everyday life and to keep corresponding digital offers on hand, said Peter Hogenkamp – for instance during a four-minute tram ride or before, during a brief wait at the tram stop. The transformation from classic to digital perspectives of journalism is tough for many print editors, but it has started. “Often, there is no culture of trying things out,” said Caroline Thoma, former Managing Director of the Blick Group. And of course, this entailed costs. “But an understanding of digital contents has also grown in classic editors’ offices.” And not only an understanding but primarily also the lure of a journalism which, for example, interactively rolls up image, text and sound in one. – Welcome to the digital age.

Photo: Yannick Zurflüh

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