What do Carsten Erdmann and the Greek philosopher Heraclitus have in common? The understanding that the only constant in life is change — and that applies to the media industry, too.
As editor-in-chief, digital, and head of digital transformation at Funke Mediengruppe, Erdmann said his greatest teacher is the industry’s constant change and how it affects the company’s business model.
“There’s no standing still in the media business,” he said. While that brings challenges, it also brings “the endless possibilities that digital transformation offers to journalism.”
INMA recently caught up with him to learn more.
INMA: What did you learn in 2020 that will help you in 2021?
Erdmann: When it comes to digitising companies and departments, big steps can be taken in just a few days or weeks. We need to maintain and continue to leverage this agility, flexibility, and speed. With the pandemic, there was a reset of our organisations. Now we need to combine the best of both worlds, before and after.
INMA: If you could start your career over again, what would you want to know at the beginning?
Erdmann: Nothing. I made mistakes and learned from them — because I made mistakes. I'm grateful for that.
INMA: What makes you like getting up in the morning?
Erdmann: My daughter asking if breakfast is ready yet. When I’m done with it, the fact that every day is different in our profession.
INMA: What’s your best advice on work-life balance?
Erdmann: Take some time off. Offline.
INMA: What success in your company are you most proud of at the moment?
Erdmann: First, Funke’s guiding principle is “journalism with passion.” Good journalism is created through discourse and is teamwork — from research and writing to presentation and delivery on the various platforms. That’s what we do. Every day. That’s the purpose of my job. That’s what I’m proud of.
Secondly, our growth strategy. We’ve worked with all departments and our strong news brands to map out a path for the next few years in the company: One million paying subscribers, half of them digital. We are focusing all our work on that.
INMA: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Erdmann: Never underestimate the challenges of the future. Create value for your readers, make your brand indispensable. Be curious. And don’t take yourself too seriously.
INMA: What do you do to relax?
Erdmann: What many others do: sports. I listen to music and podcasts (like Pivot by Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway or, in German, Doppelgaenger Tech-Talk). And in the summer I spend time on the water, not just the beach.
INMA: If you hadn’t turned to the news media, what would have been your back-up plan?
Erdmann: There was no back-up plan.
INMA: Have you read a book lately that you would recommend?
Erdmann: In English, The Written World: How Literature Shaped History by Martin Puchner or 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari. In German, Die kleinste gemeinsame Wirklichkeit by Mai Thu Nguyen-Kim, a fact check of the biggest controversies.