Major German publisher Axel Springer has been busy expanding its online activities and investments during the past few months. Besides expanding the web outlets of their popular print products Bild, Welt, Computerwoche et. al. they have acquired the price comparison site idealo and the financial portal wallstreet online, invested in zanox (a service provider for performance-based online marketing), auFeminin (the leading European internet portal for women in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, and Switzerland and number 2 in the UK) and hamburg.de amongst others.

In a press release today they announced pro-forma revenues from their online transactions for the first time:

In the first half of 2007, this pro-forma revenue from existing and acquired online business climbed by 50 percent from approximately EUR 68 million in the previous year to around EUR 102 million. Axel Springer is confident to achieve annual pro forma revenues of EUR 200 mill. from existing and newly acquired online activities in 2007, and expects this amount to more than double until 2010.

CEO Mathias Döpfner sees Springer to be

better placed for the digital future than many other, pure online companies, because we are precisely aligning our digitization strategy along the lines of those areas of core expertise that Axel Springer has been developing for decades: content, brands, target groups, marketing expertise, and our ability to create marketplaces which we have proven in the classified business segment. We do not view our online business as a separate and independent business area. Our goal is rather to digitize all our strong brands, content, and business models.

I guess most other publishers think exactly the same about themselves. The willingness to go digital – “all employees are responsible for digitization at Axel Springer because digitization is taking place everywhere” – is great, but it needs to be accompanied by an understanding of the economics of the web to make it worthwhile. I’m not talking about edge competencies. Just compared to the investments made my Holtzbrinck and Burda it seems like Springer is still stuck in a portal framed content generation/distribution mindset.

This article originally was written for blognation Germany. Since blognation is gone I have reposted it here.