paidContent 50: The world’s most successful digital media companies


33. Axel Springer

Diversified, Germany (Public)

Last year’s rank: N/A

Digital Content Revenue

$1,216,602,540 (31% of total)

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Digital Snapshot

The multimedia conglomerate publishes Europe’s highest-circulation newspaper, Germany’s Bild, as well as many others, all of which have corresponding online editions. Springer has moved rapidly into pure-play online services and led the second paid-content wave in 2009 when, ahead even of News Corp., it introduced content fees for mobile apps. Now it has 35 paid mobile apps, 24 paid tablet apps, and it has introduced web fees for several of its news and magazine titles, along with new tablet aggregator apps for its own-brand titles, iKiosk and MyEdition. The company hit record profits of €534 million in 2011.

Key Move

Springer has bought a host of sites, including French property ads site SeLoger for a whopping €633 million, M4N, Perfiliate and, recently, TotalJobs, the UK’s number-two jobs site, through its new digital jobs unit for £110 million. Having grown its digital revenue from two percent of the total in 2004 to 31 percent in 2011, the company is showing how a 66-year-old media player can transition to digital by expanding to adjacent growth areas, not merely repurposing its core content for new media. Next, it’s targeting a 50/50 split.

Our Methodology

Springer disclosed digital revenue was 31% of its total, saying: “In 2011, for the first time, revenues from digital media accounted for more than 30 % of total Group revenues. In absolute terms, we have nearly reached the € 1 billion mark in revenues from our digital business. These activities are also highly profitable (with an EBITDA margin of 16.4 %).”

Source: 2011 AR

— RA



Tripadvisor is all digital media and is around $750 M in yearly revenue and should likely be included on this list.

Arsenal Highlights

Good Job Mr. Robert

I am a freelancing SEO and SMM professional. The recent update of google penguin and panda has changed the SEO pattern radically.

And google has done this algorithm change to spread their digital ads business nothing than this.

I really hate this because, making loss to others for their own profit is a Digital Crime and Weak Business policy from my view. Check my site Arsenal Highlights


If you want to rank things on revenue, fine. But then don’t call it the ‘Most Succesful List’: Microsoft might ‘make’ $3.9b on digital content, but it also loses around $3b every year too.


Thomson Reuters?! After Eikon failure & loss of half staff..? Are you mad.


What makes me wonder ist, taht there under th etzop 50 is not a single company from Germany. Germany is the biggest market in EUropa, but no German Hundefutter among the big player. I don’t buy that.

Abdallah Al-Hakim

I think this is a terrific list despite any reservations some people have about the methodology. It really demonstrates the huge growth potential of digital media companies in some of the emerging markets. Also, as a scientist – I note Elsevier being top 5 in revenue (Elsevier is publisher behind many of the top scientific journals).

Rick Noel

Google+ is a big strategy shift for Google and could, if executed well, become another digital revenue stream ti augment the search cash cow.


What about Valve and their digital games platform: Steam. I know they are a private company and figures are hard to come by but in 2011 Forbes reckoned they have more than 50% of the 4 billion dollar PC games download market. That is huge.

I would really love to see Paid Content do some investigation on Valve because they are an incredibly innovative company who really push digital retailing to its limits.


Groupon and Monster are’t really media companies. I’m not even sure that ad agencies should qualify in the same category as Viacom or Time Warner. Totally different business model.


Why is eBay not in this list? They have an ad business on and their classified sites, and the seller fees they collect are essentially paid ads since the platform doesn’t handle the items. This list is also missing Alibaba Group from China (including Taobao), and Gree from Japan.


Does this list distinguish between companies that charge users for access and those that do not, or was that weighted in the rankings?

Zato Gibson

“Creating this list wasn’t easy.”

I can imagine. Manipulating the numbers to get Microsoft into the top 10 must have been really tough.


Yes, but they still should have had time to comment on the fact that MSN is no longer part of Microsoft and hasn’t been for several weeks. Sure that means they get to claim the revenue for this year but at least point out that they won’t have it next year.

Robert Andrews

The Microsoft profile page says: “Microsoft recently sold its stake in”
And the research period for all companies here predates that sale.
Any revenue change as a result will be reflected in next year’s pC50.

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