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A challenge for Netzeitung's new owner

I've been holding off writing about Mecom's newest acquisition, Netzeitung (still subject to regulatory approval), until Olav Anders Övrebö, media blogger and former Netzeitung journalist, added his perspectives to the fray. Though he's not too optimistic about the takeover, he throws up a few very interesting ideas:

As expected, Netzeitung has a new owner yet again, now BV Deutsche Zeitungsholding a.k.a Montgomery. This private equity media empire builder has so far not shown any particular interest in developing online news, only traditional restructuring of established print businesses. So there's no reason to be very optimistic on behalf of ex-colleagues. But it's possible to speculate about what could be done. Because now actually for the first time Netzeitung is part of a company which has the marketing clout to produce the kind of audience growth it has always been looking for in its almost seven years' existence (for more on just how, read the full post here).

Now it must be said that Edda Media's recent talent competition for innovative online ideas hints at a willingness to develop Mecom's online operations further. And, though it's often said that Montgomery so far has made no major new investments, apart from the doomed Dato, Edda Media, as many other media companies, has actually bought an entire island in Second Life (though they might want to put up additional sign-posting in German, seeing how it's much more likely that a German, than a Norwegian, will chance upon the island).

On a more serious note, during a recent debate at the Norwegian Journalist Union's annual conference, Montgomery himself signalled that we might see Mecom putting more emphasis on online innovations in the times to come:

'I'm here because I think journalism will have to change. The old fashioned model of print can not sustain itself. We face more competition than ever before. If we don't change radically, and I do mean radically, it will be bad for print, bad for democracy, bad across the board'

Will the Netzeitung acquisition be the vehicle that shows us just how Montgomery envisions that the profession will have to change?

A few reactions from the German blogosphere here and here.

Update 14:35: Just discovered this piece from (in Danish, behind pay wall) where Montgomery says he wants to focus on online development in order to sustain print.


Hi Kristine. I hope I'm being too pessimistic. You have to assume that Montgomery is aware of all those print/online mechanisms I wrote about, but isn't his time perspective on the investments important here? If he's getting out early, maybe he doesn't have so strong incentives to invest online. On the other hand, being seen to have a good online strategy would increase the value of Mecom... Local German peculiarities also play a role. There could for example still be strong internal resistance from print traditionalists.

Yes, those doubts about whether Montgomery is in it for the long or short term is certainly something that seems to worry all his new employees. Though hearing him debate media ownership twice recently - with Giske, Schibsted and A-pressen once, and NJ once - he certainly seems to 1) be the one most positive to the future of newspaper companies 2)very focused on the need to adapt to the new online 24/7 world, media convergence and all of that... but then, I guess at this stage we can only make more or less informed guesses about whether it's only spin or means we'll see longterm investments in developing the media assets he's acquired...

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