Growth strategies in a changing media environment

From traditional publishing house to cross-media content provider

The RBVG (Rheinisch-Bergische Verlagsgesellschaft) is an international media group specializing in print media. It must continually adapt to new challenges brought about by fundamental changes in consumer media behavior and media customers changing their advertising strategies. During his masters at the Steinbeis University Berlin’s School of Management and Innovation (SMI), Stephan Marzen, an investment manager at RBVG examined growth opportunities and strategies on behalf of his sponsoring company.

At the beginning of the 21st century the RBVG could look back safe in the knowledge of decades of continual growth. But today it faces the new challenge of dealing with the effects of a media crisis and rapid changes in media consumption habits. As a first step, the company therefore had to fundamentally reorganize its operations across all business areas and streamline its business portfolio in all regional markets. It then had to address the issue of how to return the media group to its original path of growth, especially since it needed to remain a key competitor in a media environment increasingly marked by concentration and internationalization.

This issue was presented to Stephan Marzen during his MediaMBA studies at the School of Management and Innovation, which he began in 2005 and successfully completed in 2007. A commercial graduate by background, Marzen has been working as an investment manager at the publishing company since 2004. Within this role, he is responsible on an operational level for existing investments in Poland and the Netherlands, plus moving image activities within the media group. He also manages new investments from initial acquisition through completion.

The aim of his degree project at the SMI was to pinpoint future growth opportunities and develop strategies to form specific recommendations for action at RBVG. Marzen’s recommendations for next steps were based on a detailed evaluation of market offerings and providers in each regional market, focusing on the two most pertinent regions for strategic reasons: North Rhine-Westphalia and the province of Kujawy-Pomerania in Poland. His task was to summarize key factors driving development and influences on each market and estimate further developments in the period until 2010. These market factors were complemented with an analysis of existing know-how and resources within RBVG. By comparing prospects outside the company with those inside the company, Marzen was able to arrive at specific steps to generate growth.

Out of the four growth options identified, Marzen recommended continuing to pursue a strategy of local market leadership, as was the case in the past, and to position the company as a provider of local and regional content across all media segments – only to do this much more forcefully than before.

Even during his studies, actions and projects worked on by Marzen were already being put into place. For instance, the company invested in a new regional TV channel from Dusseldorf called It also launched a lifestyle-oriented ‘free-ads’ newspaper in Poland. Based on similar evaluations, the company also embarked on and implemented a variety of growth projects in the regional markets of the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.

The channel went on air in 2006. It offers a round-the-clock program on all types of issues and events affecting Dusseldorf and the surrounding area. The schedule includes news, documentaries and people from the local business scene and politics, as well as sports, arts in the region, talk shows and higher-quality program formats. Based on RBVG’s positive experiences since going on air, the company is currently looking at ways to extend local TV activities to other cities in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Between July and September 2006, the company set up and launched a free advertising newspaper in two cities in Poland. The paper comes out every Thursday and covers a variety of topics related to leisure activities, sport, social events, fashion and travel. Its aim is to encourage readers to buy more and so provide advertising customers with the right format to advertise products. Here, too, RBVG is looking closely at ways to roll out the concept.

Over the past two years the publishing group has succeeded in bolstering its market standing within each region and even strengthen it. This is not least thanks to the efforts and specific recommendations made by Stephan Marzen. Today RBVG considers itself back on the path to growth. To make sure it remains successful in the market in the long term, Marzen recommended in his masters thesis that the company should work continuously on the areas of action already implemented and actively follow up and put into place the remaining identified actions – if necessary with added impetus.

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