Matter is excited to announce that Switzerland’s largest private domestic media group, Tamedia, is joining as our eleventh partner — the first based in Europe.
This is a huge opportunity for us to scale our impact on the European continent by collaborating with a major player in publishing, digital media, and a diverse array of other properties which is active not only in Switzerland, but Austria, Denmark, and Luxembourg.
The partnership has been spearheaded on Tamedia’s side by the group’s Publisher and Chairman, Pietro Supino, who earlier this year spent several months as a visiting scholar in the Communications Department at Stanford University in the heart of Silicon Valley. In a recent interview, we asked him more about why he’s excited to make Tamedia a Matter media partner.**
(**Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.)
RB: Pietro, can you give us an overview of Tamedia for people who might not have heard of it?
PS: The history of the company is that of a traditional newspaper [business] that has had the luck to grow in the very thriving metropolitan area of Zurich. Over the last 10 years we have had considerable growth through mergers and acquisitions. The Swiss market is very rich — it’s the fourth biggest European newspaper market in absolute terms, notwithstanding the small size of the country. Our publishing business now consists of major regional newspapers in Zurich and Bern, the capital of Switzerland, as well as networks of regional papers. We have free sheet papers in all three languages of Switzerland — German, French, and Italian — plus some magazines. The second pillar of our company is something that historically was part of the first — classified platforms and marketplaces — but in the digital age these have become standalone companies: classified ads for real estate, cars, small ads, similar to Craigslist. Among our ventures, we have the leading Swiss marketplace, Ricardo, which is the equivalent of eBay. We have our big digital Yellow Pages business. We also have a very exciting activity [as part of our Digital Business Unit], by the name of Doodle. It’s a platform for scheduling [events] among your group.
RB: Why are you partnering with a U.S.-based media startup accelerator?
PS: It’s a fortunate opportunity. It goes back to the time I was able to take off this spring to spend in California as a visiting scholar at Stanford. I wanted to think more deeply about the question of how technology can be put at the of service of media companies in order to overcome the big challenges we face. And I wanted to experience onsite how the culture of the venture capital industry and the startup world feels and works. Before arriving, I already had a lot of organizations, people, I wanted to meet, and Matter was on that list. I had heard about it at a board meeting at the Columbia Journalism School. When I was at Stanford, I asked Jay Hamilton, the Director of the Journalism Program at Stanford University whether he knew Matter, and by then I had found out Corey Ford was the founder. [Jay] introduced me to him, and I went to Matter’s really nice premises in San Francisco, and it was a great meeting. We got the sense we were speaking about the same matters, and the mutual feeling was that we could make a good fit. I brought in members of my management team who were visiting for a retreat in California. That also turned out to be a very positive meeting and from there we very quickly, without much complication, became a partner.
RB: You’re our first European partner, too, which is very exciting for us. I was wondering how you’re planning to take to leverage our Partner Program. Will you be sending staff over to take part in our next design thinking bootcamp?
PS: Yes. The idea will be to send 5–10 participants from our group into the Matter program during next year’s class. [We will ideally] send people who would be of value to Matter and to the startups at Matter, so we have been finding out what kind of profile would be of interest to Matter. At the same time we get the feeling that these are also the people that we want to further develop within our organization.
RB: In what other ways can Matter be helpful in driving innovation at Tamedia?
PS: We all have to innovate on all fronts. There is no limitation on where you can help but where I see the value could be particularly important, the value of design thinking that we can learn through Matter, is in the publishing business. Historically we have not thought enough about the needs of our users and readers; rather we were in a position to decide on our own what was good for them. This balance of power has shifted, and is one of the challenges we are facing. I’m convinced that design thinking is a good way to adapt to the new reality and be more focused on delivering to our clients what really adds value to their lives.
At the same time, our role has always been not only to deliver what people expect of us, but more broadly to serve society, and there I think Matter’s mission to inform, connect, and empower is very compatible with our own mission. So this combination of having such mission of them but having also the idea to serve our audience is an excellent combination and should be fruitful for the development of our future.
Another possible way to engage could be that we could bring in more European partners from our network which could add value to the intellectual process. The potential is huge and we should embark on this journey open-mindedly.
RB: We’re also always on the look out for stellar media startups from Europe.
PS: That’s a great idea and if that dealflow turned out to be big enough, we could even think about bringing Matter to Switzerland!
RB: Do you have a vision for the long-term goals you want to hit when it comes to internal innovation at Tamedia?
As we are a relatively diversified media group — imagine we are about the same size as the New York Times group, but the paper that is at the origin of our group makes up only about 10% of it. First of all we have to have a vision for each single activity. In each of them we want to be at the forefront of development, which is of course different for a marketplace than for a publishing operation. In publishing more specifically, I think we want to prove that the chances that the digital revolution offers are as big as the challenged we face because of it, and that’s a huge ambition which I think you can’t resolve with one recipe, only with a lot of different initiatives.
To learn about Matter’s parallel program and what your staff can learn from participating, check out this blog post by Kerri Hoffman, CEO of PRX, about Catapult, the podcasting initiative the company launched that is modeled on the Matter program.