Marc Isler of Tamedia shares thoughts on digital growth, data-based products
Editor's Inbox | 13 October 2021
Tamedia Publikationen’s history dates to 1893, with the launch of the newspaper Tages-Anzeiger. Today, Tamedia is the largest editorial network in Switzerland, employing over 1,800 people in German- and French-speaking Switzerland.
Marc Isler, chief revenue officer at Tamedia and a member of the INMA Europe Division Board of Directors, said the news media industry has learned valuable lessons during the pandemic. Those lessons are helping guide him toward the future.
“The past two years have shown that there is still a strong demand for high-quality journalism and that there is also a great willingness to pay for digital editorial content,” he said. “Now it is important to keep these new customers happy in the future and to reach new subscribers, especially more young and female readers.”
That will come through creating new digital offerings and new formats, he said. INMA caught up with Isler to learn more.
INMA: If you had your career to do over again, what would you want to know in the beginning?
Isler: Nothing, because I want to try things out myself, learn from them, and improve.
INMA: What makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?
Isler: Our media have been among the most important media brands in Switzerland for 128 years. This should still be true in 150 years and then primarily in digital form. Actively helping to shape this transformation of content, products, and business model motivates me every day.
INMA: What is your best piece of advice on work/life balance?
Isler: The current times are very challenging, so recovery periods are essential. I often go jogging in the middle of the day between meetings or switch off Slack and e-mail during vacations in the mountains. I have full confidence in my team that reasonable decisions are made during my absence.
INMA: What is the craziest job or project you’ve ever done in the media — and what did you learn from it?
Isler: The whole transformation from a print company to a mobile-first media company in the last five years has been crazy. What I've learned is that changing culture and mindset takes much more time than anticipated and cannot be accelerated by project plans.
INMA: What success within your company are you most proud of right now?
Isler: The digital growth in subscription numbers from around 30,000 to more than 140,000 subscriptions (not including promotional subscriptions or day passes) in the last five years — a fantastic achievement that has only been possible due to the close cooperation between editorial teams, product teams, engineering, and my Reader Revenue team.
INMA: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Isler: To gain success, one needs to meet customers’ expectations and needs. Therefore, it is crucial to regularly listen to your customers — as well as non-customers who could potentially become subscribers — to derive hypotheses from them for further product development and to test accordingly. Decisions shouldn’t be made by managers out of experience or their gut feeling but data-based on user interactions.
INMA: What do you do to relax?
Isler: I spend a lot of time in the mountains on hikes or on skis with my wife and our two kids. Besides that, I like to listen to podcasts during long-distance runs in breaks between meetings.
INMA: If you hadn’t gone into the news media, what was your back-up plan?
Isler: After I started an Internet portal with friends during my studies in 1997, which was financed by banner ads, I was always in transformation processes from print to digital — first at local.ch, where it was a matter of transferring the Yellow Pages business into the digital age, later in tourism at the Hotelplan Group in a good combination of traditional travel agencies (and catalogues) with a digital journey, and now in the media sector.
My back-up plan was always to start my own company again like I did at the beginning of my career. But the projects and tasks have been much too exciting so far to think about a change.
INMA: Have you read any books you’d recommend lately?
Isler: Yes, Inside Facebook from Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang. It shows the concentration of power that online companies can have and how the leadership was overwhelmed by it. For us, I took away that we always have to discuss the topic "How do we increase the engagement of our users" from an ethical point of view.