FML Blog

Digital Innovation: Made in Europe

Thursday, February 05, 2015      Marjolaine Detry      0
Advances in technology and media innovation have had an enormous impact on Europe’s media environment. From changes in consumer behaviour and perpetually advancing technology to changing business models and the shift from paper to mobile, publishers have been scrambling to find solutions for these new challenges. Could start-ups be the answer?

This phenomenon was examined at our latest Future Media Lab. conference, which took place in Brussels on 20 January 2015 and featured presentations by a number of European and U.S.-based start-ups. At the end of this month, we will delve further into this topic during our Berlin Start-up Tour (26/27 February), which will visit nine media-based start-ups in Berlin, a city that is quickly becoming one of Europe’s favourite locations for start-ups. Participants in the tour will not only meet the founders of some of Berlin’s most innovative companies face-to-face, but they will also obtain valuable insight into the latest developments and innovative workflows relevant to the magazine media industry.

As the media environment in Europe adapts to changes in consumer behaviour and technological innovations, start-ups play an important role in addressing these challenges. In the 2014-2015 edition of the EMMA Magazine “Empowering Citizens”, Denise Kratzenberg of Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator in Berlin wrote that start-ups are becoming a core focus of Axel Springer’s business, as they play a central role to the company’s strategy to become one of the leading European digital publishers.

To address this, the Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator was launched in 2013 in order to provide global opportunities for young digital entrepreneurs through an international network in Europe and Silicon Valley. The Berlin-based accelerator also collaborates with the Plug and Play Tech Center in California, which has been funneling investments in young Silicon Valley start-up incubators since 1990.

The three-month programme at Axel Springer Plug and Play kick-starts new business models by providing individual coaching, workshops, networking and an investment of €25.000 to young entrepreneurs. The programme ends with a Demo Day, at which point the startups are given the chance to pitch their concept in front of an elite audience of local and international venture capital funds. In exchange, Axel Springer Plug and Play receives a share of five percent.

While it can be said that start-ups are playing an increasingly important role to the media environment in Europe, there are a number of challenges that inhibit start-ups from developing to their full potential. For instance, Kratzenberg writes that one important question for start-ups in Europe today is how to prevent Google from giving preferential treatment to its own services or promoted links, which actively creates barriers to market entrance for emerging competitors. “This aspect is increasingly relevant for startups, innovations and jobs in the digital field,” she writes. “[It] is particularly pertinent during the phase of market entry, as traffic can be the key determinant for the awareness of users and investors regarding the new startup – and thus for its potential success.” If Google’s own services, even if they are of less quality or less relevant, are always be displayed more prominently and at a higher rank, traffic automatically is diverted away from start-ups – irrespective of their relevance and quality.

Additionally, other developments of European or national regulation have the ability to impact Europe’s digital environment, including the protection of intellectual property, data privacy, and consumer protection.

In sum, Kratzenberg argues for European regulation that helps “promote safe, transparent and unconvential spaces for innovation and economic growth of the digital market – in all member states.” She adds, “The collective accelerator programme initiated by Axel Springer Plug and Play in Berlin wants to inspire other initiatives to promote innovation-friendly digital environments.”

To learn more about Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator, join our Start-up Tour of Berlin on 26/27 February. The tour offers insights into such topics as payment systems for paid content, e-mail marketing for individualized communication, beacon technology for location-based marketing and the compression and selection of editorial content. The full programme can be found here, including descriptions of the various start-ups included in the tour.
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