Joachim Schmaltz cuts an impressive figure. This is not just because of his height - the German giant towers at six feet six inches - but also his disarmingly genial and courteous demeanour.
Schmaltz, who is well spoken not only in English and his native German, but also in French and some Mandarin, has run the media business of Reuters, one of the globe’s largest media wires, for the past two years. His tasks at the company are broad, but Schmaltz comes across as a man up for the challenge. As VP, he oversees a team of media and advertising-sales staff, and works closely with Reuters’ print, broadcast and online media customers in this region, and has further responsibility for the Reuters consumer business in Japan, India and China.
According to Schmaltz, his role is two-pronged: first, overseeing the news agency’s business and its partnerships and, second, managing Reuters’ evolving websites in mega-markets China, India and Japan, making sure they attract both ads and readers.
Like all digital media agencies, Reuters’ focus lies in expanding its digital capabilities to ensure its news is available anywhere, anytime. Schmaltz says this not only includes initiatives such as multimedia, mobile and social networking, but also working with entities such as Google to see that its news is broadcast.
Weighing up the pros and cons of wire services versus Google News has proven contentious, as the likes of Agence France Presse and the Associated Press have contended in the past that making news free devalues their subscription
service. But not Reuters.
“I agree with my bosses who say that we’re not in the business of preventing news; we’re in the business to provide it,” says Schmaltz. “There are people who are concerned about the new web economy, but I think that there can be money behind that.”
The money, he continues, can come as netizens link Reuters’ stories to their sites and subsequently drives traffic to Reuters’ site, raising its profile. It can also come from advertising deals, which is the case in Japan, where Reuters shares its news with Yahoo, with the search giant providing links to Reuters’ site and expanding the its advertising inventory.
According to Thomson Reuters’ 2008 Annual Review, electronic, software and services account for 90 per cent of its media revenue, while print is 10 per cent of its revenue. In 2008, Reuters claimed approximately $13.4 billion worth of revenue, of which approximately 85 per cent came from subscription and other contractual agreements.To further monetise its news, Schmaltz says Reuters places stock in its partnerships with companies across the region, such as Hexun and CCTV2 in China and ET Now in India, to generate revenue and bolster its brand.
It is also strengthening its ability to “package” its news, providing on-the-ground reports, video, analysis and live commentary - all available to subscribers to pick apart and incorporate for its local audiences. “Take one of our partners, Asahi TV in Japan: it knows its audience and we give it all the tools to make it locally relevant.”
Schmaltz became involved with media creation and content after studying business at Universität Karlsruhe. He started his career as an intern at an information-database company similar to Dow Jones’ Factiva.
This later facilitated a position at Handelsblatt, a leading German economic newspaper, where he helped to broker a joint venture between the company and Reuters to launch a real-time financial commentary platform for investors. Schmaltz says that was the first time he had such a hand in “building something digital from scratch”.
Unfortunately, launched around the time of the dot-com bust, the website didn’t last long, but Schmaltz remained at Handelsblatt and continued to play a central role in driving its digital direction.
After seven years working with Handelsblatt, he departed the company to try his hand at autonomous entrepreneurial endeavours. With friends he launched a health-related social networking site that was sold to a German venture capital company, which left him looking for jobs in 2007, just in time for Reuters to come knocking back on his door.
At the time, Reuters was looking for someone to run its media unit across Asia - giving Schmaltz the international scope working at Handelsblatt had lacked. He agreed almost immediately, and had three months to prepare for a move to Hong Kong, a city to which he had never been.
“It was absolutely lucky and the role fit in perfectly,” he says. “The position is fast-changing and it’s strangely entrepreneurial. You can pursue your own ideas and start things up, even though it’s a very large organisation.”
The role retains many challenges, though, with the Thompson Reuters network still facing a difficult task to broaden its brand in Asia.
The region is currently the company’s lowest revenue-generator, accounting for 10 per cent of the global total. This compares with the Americas, which represents 58 per cent of total revenue, and Europe, the Middle East and Africa with a 32 per cent slice.
From an exclusively Reuters Media perspective, however, Schmaltz believes the company’s brand awareness is rising because of its strategic partnerships with local media.
“There’s a bundle of things that we’re touching on to raise our profile,” he says. “We always strive for better coverage, better distribution and more of a focus on our financial, healthcare, law and media products. It’s all the same tenets we’ve always used, but they’re always relevant.”
Joachim Schmaltz CV
2007 VP, Reuters Media Asia
2003 MD & CEO Economy, One, Verlagsgruppe Handelsblatt
2001 MD & CEO, Meteor & Co KG (JV of Reuters and Handelsblatt)
1999 Team leader, online, Mairs Geographischer Verlag
1998 Product manager, Handelsblatt Interaktiv
1997 Project manager, Verlagsgruppe Handelsblatt
1996 Assistant manager, online development, Verlagsgruppe Handelsblatt
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This article was originally published in the 25 February 2010 issue of Media.