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The rise of the researcher

With increased competition in the market, audiences demanding more relevant and topical content than ever before and engagement increasingly difficult to achieve, research is now at the heart of all good publishing strategies. Clarissa Moughrabi, head of research at Axel Springer SE in Germany explains how her team supports the business’s product teams as well as its wider strategy…

***Join us at the FIPP World Media Congress, taking place from 12-14 November 2019 in Las Vegas, to hear Clarissa Moughrabi present her session on ‘conscious reach’. Register before 25 September for discounted delegate rates. View the full agenda here.***

As head of the research team at Axel Springer, tell us about the type of research you carry out and the insights you aim to gather – and how this supports the various activities across the business and its subsidiaries…

Axel Springer’s market research team is the central contact partner for all the group’s divisions for matters regarding target groups, products or strategy. One of our main focal points is supporting Axel Springer’s marketing subsidiary, Media Impact, with primary research projects, secondary analysis and consulting. We are also a service provider for our executive board, the editorial offices of our media brands, and for Axel Springer’s subsidiaries in Germany and abroad. We offer a wide range of services, including insights on target groups, brand analysis, media strategy or business development.

How does research drive success at Axel Springer? Is the focus more on audience insight and helping identify audience requirements, or do you get involved in wider, strategic research – such as the direction of the overall business, new product launches etc?

Of course, there is a strong focus on audience insights, due to our role as research knowledge supplier for Axel Springer’s marketing branch. We need to know about our target groups, about their needs and about their media usage.

But we are also involved in strategic research and product development. All of our research is business related with a clear focus on our client’s individual target group, be it b2b or b2c. Before the launch of a new product for example, we will carry out market tests, which will see us are conduct research and give recommendations on things such as whether there is potential for a certain product or not.

Does the increased competition in the market and the amount of free content audiences have access to now make research and data all the more important?

It is extremely important to know all about your audience or at least to gather as much information as you can get. That’s the only way to successfully adjust your products in a continuous improvement process. You have to anticipate the needs of your audience at an early stage to improve your products and stay ahead of the competition. So, I would say that is a key driver for the growing importance of data, insights and research.

Can you tell  us a little more about how you work as a service provider to the various parts of the business – and how you ensure you stay ‘independent’, and that the research and data helps drive direction rather than simply validating an existing plan?

I think the different branches of Axel Springer that work with us know about us as an independent service provider and appreciate our honesty and data driven advice. We collect and analyse data and give our best advice based on this knowledge and our years of experience in the media market. Our clients are not only from Germany but also international, so there is a high amount of trust in our work and in what we can do for our clients’ business growth.

Do you have a direct example of how the research team has directly contributed to success?

Obviously, I can’t talk about specific clients, but our individual marketing research projects regularly lead to stronger customer loyalty and even to the acquisition of new customers. Editorial offices listen to our advice on currently relevant topics and adjust their focus accordingly, which leads to a stabilisation or a smaller decline of circulation figures.

Is Axel Springer unusual in its heavy focus on research and how it is using research to drive success and grow? Or is your experience that most players are now putting a string focus on research to stay relevant?

Our market research team is definitely one of the biggest when you compare it with other media companies in Germany. Evidence of our investment in research is that we do not only manage ad hoc research projects. Our team also provides and develops further a software tool for data analysis and media planning which is the market-leading media-planning tool and used industry-wide in media businesses. We are also involved in several committees, working alongside other media companies to represent our interests and establish new media industry standards. For Axel Springer, it is important to have in-house research knowledge about the business, the specifics of our brands and our audiences. We want to set the agenda and initiate discussion on currently relevant topics and developments.

Written by Jon Watkins.

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