Interview with Johannes Burk, Director Content Solutions at PressReader, an on-demand media platform in Canada
Pleased to meet you, Johannes. Can you tell us about your background and your current position?
While our mission at PressReader is to enrich and empower curious minds by providing access to quality journalism, we see a sustainable future for creators of quality content – in part by partnering with PressReader.
As Director of Content Solutions, my scope of work entails developing new strategic partnerships that open up new revenue opportunities for our publishing partners in areas they do not specialize in. Especially, the licensing and copyright situation in the global market remains very complex and is an area of improvement, where publishers and business partners can benefit from our expertise and extensive network.
Among my favorite facets of my daily work are building and growing global relationships with licensing and media intelligence C-Suite executives and communication professionals, supporting new and existing deals with B2B partners, and developing new strategic revenue opportunities.
What makes PressReader different from other companies in this field?
PressReader’s proprietary technology makes it possible to process thousands of newspapers every single day, extracting text and images and making articles instantly translatable, searchable, and easy to read on mobile devices. Our all-you-can-read service is popular with individual subscribers and business partners alike and we’re a global leader among Hospitality, Library and other B2B channels.
Recently The Economist and PressReader announced an expansion of their strategic partnership, making PressReader the exclusive digital distributor of the weekly magazine globally in public libraries, hotels, aviation, marine and healthcare.
What are the greatest challenges ahead for you and your team?
Publishers need to utilize the available information regarding their reader’s preferences. Supporting them by providing insightful analytics and creating additional reach and readership through the PressReader platform and extensive B2B network will be an ongoing priority.
Another challenge is adding to the product lines (ebooks will soon be on PressReader) in a time of content abundance, while staying connected with the needs of our customers.
Can you give an example of an excellent client case of yours that create real impact?
The Arkansas Democratic Gazette (ADG) ‘iPad Initiative’. This was a bold experiment that won the 2020 Mega-Innovation Award. Back in 2018, the publisher of the ADG realized that his newspaper was going to lose money. Instead of cutting circulation in remote areas and decimating its newsroom as many US newspaper publishers did, ADG analyzed subscribers’ reading behaviors and discovered that thousands of them had already switched from the print edition of the paper to the Digital Replica. Hence, ADG initiated an experiment in Blytheville where subscribers were encouraged to switch from print to the Digital Replica.
70% of print readers converted to the Digital Replica, motivating ADG to launch a full-scale rollout across the state. In January 2020, ADG completed the digital conversion, transitioning just shy of 36,000 home delivery subscribers (79%) to the Digital Replica powered by PressReader’s Branded Edition 2.0 technology.
Print is not dead, but online is king. In your opinion, will both still be relevant in 5 years?
The publishing industry has been facing enormous challenges in the age of digitalization. Publishers must adapt quickly to react to different consumption habits, and many will have to offer online and print products to cater different needs and increase retention.
Print will become more and more of a luxury, but the format itself provides a complete ‘news’ to secure advertisers offering for a set period of time, something that is still valued today, and is expected to be valuable for many years to come.
Premium print sources will remain a key factor for publishers, although the format may change over the next few years. As the example of ADG shows, PressReader’s Branded Editions partners with renowned publishers, providing white-label digital publishing solution, including The New York Times, The Guardian, and El País. Readers can enjoy the feeling of the print product enhanced by digital reader-first features, offering a dynamic, unparalleled reading experience.
The market is having a shake-up. First covid, now economic instability and inflations. How did you see your market respond and do you expect a long-lasting effect?
During the pandemic, PressReader has supported its partners in the struggling Hospitality & Tourism industries. We also experienced a significant increase in new B2C subscribers, which demonstrates that Print remains among the most trusted sources. Especially since fake news has emerged, people rely on trustworthy journalism to consume their news.
While we remain cautious with our outlook in uncertain economic times, I am optimistic that the publishing and communication industry will bounce back and recover even stronger.
How do you see the industry develop in the next 5 years?
Retaining readership for publishers is a key factor to success. Major publishers are remodeling their subscription plans and digital offerings to meet the changing demands of readers. Offering new ways of accessing news and constant development is necessary to keep abreast. Data analytics and AI are going to play a huge role in analyzing reader behavior, which will help publishers offer customized content to its consumers. Finally, remote work is changing media professionals’ schedules. Being flexible to retain the talented people will be one of the biggest challenges for the communications industry.
By Anna Roos van Wijngaarden