Axel Springer talent chief urges media to modernise to avoid irrelevance

By Peter Bale


New Zealand and the U.K.


The media industry needs to overcome its fear and embrace new technology and new ways of working if it is to compete and to stay relevant to increasingly demanding younger audiences, Axel Springer executive Niddal Salah-Eldin told the INMA World Congress of News Media in May.

In a startlingly clear and simple speech, Salah-Eldin, the president of culture and talent at the big German publisher, urged media houses to become genuinely customer centric and less self-regarding and to adopt higher standards in culture and in developing products customers — especially new customers — actually wanted.

Niddal Salah-Eldin, president of culture and talent at Axel Springer, spoke to World Congress attendees about the changing hiring culture.
Niddal Salah-Eldin, president of culture and talent at Axel Springer, spoke to World Congress attendees about the changing hiring culture.

“Good enough is what got us where we are today,” she said, adding we now had to be truly excellent in the face of unprecedented disruption from technology such as generative AI but also trends in the workplace and among our customers.

“We are about to be disrupted… . This new kid on the block is set to disrupt our businesses even more,” she said. The age of cheap traffic from social media is over, and the big technology platforms would dominate the new era and write their own rule book if the media did not.

The media, she warned, was too often “too slow, too complacent, and too boring” and risked becoming irrelevant, especially to a new generation of readers and perhaps prospective younger employees who would no longer find media an enticing place to work.

“We cannot be paralysed by fear,” she said. “We can help define the future of this industry that we care about so deeply. Embrace disruption and create momentum.”

She said her mission at Axel Springer was to build the culture of a media company of the future with an emphasis on education and exchange between individuals and teams, interdisciplinary teams, optimising processes to be faster and better, and constantly exploring new products and ideas from inside and outside the company.

“We have to welcome the unfamiliar into our lives… . We have to shake hands with the future,” she said of the philosophy behind her talent search at Axel Springer and embodied in the Axel Springer FreeTech Academy, which she has championed and which trains journalists, technologists, and business people to create powerful collaborations.

“The magic happens at the intersection of journalism, business, and technology,” she said in a comment that I thought also embodied what we think at the Newsroom Initiative.

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About Peter Bale

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