Springer On A Spree: Publisher’s Growth Strategy Is Digital, Overseas

The publisher of the west’s highest-selling newspaper is doing digital M&A at a rate of knots lately. Here’s how Germany’s Bild proprietor Axel Springer has been buying itself greater digital heft this year, a strategy which has gathered pace since the summer…

CarWale: It’s taken 52.1 percent of the Indian car classifieds site (India Today Group is taking 18.3 percent).

BagItToday.com: India Today Group has given Springer 19.1 percent of its lifestyle marketplace.

Sohomint.com: Springer’s bought 72.6 percent of the community and content creation platform.

SeLoger.com: It’s offered €34 per share for the French property site – valued at €566 million but rejected as too low by leading shareholders.

Buy.at: Digital Window, part-owned by Springer, bought AOL’s affiliate ad net.

The pattern is clear – like WPP, Springer has been embracing advertising-related online businesses outside of its backyard. And it’s been dropping some of its business-to-business efforts, having recently sold its wallstreet:online and ZertifikateJournal sites to management, and the remaining Axel Springer Financial Media unit to its managers.

The group, led by CEO Mathias Döpfner (pictured), recently reported digital earnings 62.6 percent up for the first nine months of 2010, and credited this for adding 21 percent to group-wide revenue, nearly a quarter of which is now digital.

Springer’s international president Ralph Büchi recently said his strategy is “digitisation and internationalisation”: “We are investing in highly promising online growth sectors.”

Springer already operates the immomet.de property portal, StepStone job site, buecher.de retailer, idealo.de price comparer, several special-interest portals, goFeminin.de women’s site, Bild spin-offs for for cars, sport and computers, and the luxury Iconist iPad magazine.