Editor’s note: In a new, ongoing series, INMA is profiling our most engaged members — our super fans. At a time when we have less face-to-face time, we hope this gives members a chance to learn more about each other. Today we profile André Kittelberger, head of paid content for Südwest Media Network GmbH.
As head of paid content for Südwest Media Network GmbH in Stuttgart, Germany, André Kittelberger enjoys identifying opportunities to improve company products — and then later analyse the performance of this change:
“I love to dive into data and testing customer behaviour to learn about our customers and find explanations why they do what they do and how we can improve it,” Kittelberger said.
One thing that motivates him is that Südwest Media Network GmbH recognises the future of news is digital. This has helped it set a clear transformation agenda that will allow it to lay the foundation for successful digital journalism in its region.
INMA recently caught up with Kittleberger to learn more about him.
INMA: What big lesson have you learned over the past couple of years that helped shape your plans for 2022?
Kittelberger: Small improvements always beat big and complicated projects. Aim for small, measurable easy-to-set-up packages and keep them independent from bigger projects — they won’t be completely dispensable, after all.
INMA: If you had your career to do over again, what would you want to know in the beginning?
Kittelberger: Don’t think too much. Get a test running and know.
INMA: What is the craziest job or project you’ve ever done in media — and what did you learn from it?
Kittelberger: In 2011 we launched a paid newsletter called “StZ Wirtschaft kompakt,” which addressed managers with regional business news. Despite the crappy user experience (we just sent a regular pdf document that looked like a newspaper page attached to a plain-text mail via our ERP System), we found several paying subscribers. After a year or so we canceled the newsletter because there was no growth and we lacked the focus to improve the product.
Today I would say that was a mistake. Today you would call this an MVP. By learning and improving it with the subscribers, this newsletter today could have a strong and engaged readership.
INMA: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Kittelberger: Successful people work with their colleagues and customers. Not against them.
INMA: What do you do to relax?
Kittelberger: I love doing sports. Doesn’t really matter what sport. What I do most at the moment is road cycling.
INMA: If you hadn’t gone into news media, what was your backup plan?
Kittelberger: I guess it would have been something like digital advertising or search engine marketing. I’m glad I stayed!
INMA: What is your favourite thing to read?
Kittelberger: Hard science fiction, but not because I always understand the science behind it. It’s because I love touching the limits of [my] thinking when it comes to the physics of time, space, and problems of future civilisations.
INMA: What do you find the most challenging/interesting about the news media industry right now?
Kittelberger: I think in news media by now everybody knows we are running for our lives (or jobs, to be less dramatic). Not least because of COVID-19, we have been shown that rapid changes can be driven by external circumstances. If your company or your product is not ready for this challenge, it can be too late.
Steady improvement and transformation are a necessity to keep independent high-quality journalism alive. And after over 10 years in digital news media, my feeling is our steps have become more focused, much bigger, and faster.