The Transformation of Axel Springer

Research paper on the successful transformation of Axel Springer from a print media publisher to an internet company

The markets for printed media have been in structural decline since the turn of the centuries. Axel Springer, a leading media corporation, has entered this period with a business portfolio that was almost entirely based on such markets. Within this context, the firm managed impressively to transform into an internet company in the last two decades. Today, Axel Springer generates >3/4 of its revenue with digital business models and its profitability increased threefold.

This research paper meticulously examines this transformation case with primary data generated from interviews with Axel Springer’s top management. It finds an incumbent adaptation model that is applicable to firms facing similar challenges. It suggests to sense new business opportunities concurrently to seizing them. New business should be managed at distance from the legacy business and the latter should be put under a strict profitizing mandate. Although it seems paradox, stability and continuity are important factors in a transformation case. 

This research paper by Niklaus Leemann, Dominik K. Kanbach, and Stephan Stubner is titled “Breaking the Paradigm of Sensing, Seizing, and Transforming – Evidence from Axel Springer”. It is published in the Journal of Business Strategies under the DOI 10.54155/jbs.38.2.95-124.



Leemann, N., Kanbach, D. K., and Stubner, S. (2021), “Breaking the Paradigm of Sensing, Seizing, and Transforming – Evidence from Axel Springer”, Journal of Business Strategies, Vol. 38 No. 2, pp. 95-124.


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