Annual Report

Foreword from the President & CEO

Peter Kropsch, CEO, dpa 

Dear ladies and gentlemen, dear friends of dpa,

The coronavirus pandemic represents an unprecedented challenge for dpa and it was not possible to gauge its long-term impact when these lines were written in April 2020. During the crisis, dpa has shown that the media and Germany as a whole can rely on the integrity of their news agency. The company was also able to support customers in these unusual circumstances by providing mobile access and activating additional services without bureaucracy.

As a news organisation, dpa has consistently and reliably delivered content despite the adverse working conditions for reporting teams in our offices abroad, especially in Beijing and Rome, the temporary closure of our Berlin central editorial office and headquarters in Hamburg along with shutdowns at other locations. Throughout this period, all of our subsidiaries and service providers remained completely operational. Our contingency plans for the emergency and for home office working have been proving their worth. The performance of our colleagues at home and abroad has been and still is very impressive.

There are a lot of other things to be said about last year and 2019 certainly kept us on our toes. There were many opportunities to be grasped and challenges to be faced. It was also a year during which past and present caught up with each other. One highlight was the ceremony to mark 70 years of dpa as a German joint venture media enterprise. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in his speech: “Those who support democracy in our country will want to maintain the German Press Agency and those who invest in order to secure what has been achieved for the future, are performing a great service to both democracy and independent journalism.”   

Independent journalism requires a sound financial basis and 2019 was a year of solid performance. Group profits were within the target area. A source of particular satisfaction is overall growth of nearly two per cent. Turnover for the year was well above 140 million euros. The dpa parent company, which has had to absorb an annual decline in newspaper circulation every year, was able to maintain turnover to within a few thousand euros of last year’s figure. 

The coronavirus pandemic is not the only factor that has made life harder for our media customers. Above all, the digital transformation and a uniquely dynamic news situation have made their mark. The latter has been exacerbated by a flood of disinformation resulting from the general social buzz around topics or from those engaging in targeted strategic communication.

The chief editorship has pushed ahead with a major expansion of video and multimedia services. This development is a result of our revised editorial product management structure. The verification unit located in the central editorial office in Berlin has been established strongly and its services are being expanded beyond Germany’s borders. For one of our partner agencies dpa will in future supply the international content for its German-language services.

After three years of development dpa’s ID-Platform has gone live. Around 10,000 users have already applied for the digital identity. With its wide range of services and tools, the dpa ID-Platform is becoming a key marketplace. Using the secure identity, professional users can access dpa products – and also third party services. The first material is already available to download.

To enhance its technical basis, dpa has reorganized its IT units as part of a project called Aurora which maximises the potential for operational and technical development. This enables us to speed up innovational projects. The restructured dpa IT department was launched under new management at the end of 2019.

Several of our subsidiary companies have delivered excellent performance. Two of them, news aktuell and dpa-infocom, achieved new benchmarks in turnover and profit. Our Frankfurt-based picture subsidiary dpa Picture-Alliance has also well exceeded expectations. Equally above plan were the results of our news aktuell Schweiz, which is now a wholly-owned subsidiary. For more information on this, please see the status report below. 

SA news agency needs shareholders who think strategically and dpa can be gratified that the members of its owner community are right behind the agency on this. The clearest sign is the agreement reached by the supervisory board in December on a new subscription price structure for the dpa Basic Service. After a two-year gestation period it enables unimpeded access to seven central dpa services for use in all customer applications. This exactly mirrors our customer production processes. The calculation blends digital and analogue components to create an “integrated reach architecture”. The idea behind it is so simple that it could be jotted down on a beer mat. Steve Krug, the US web usability expert, once coined the phrase “Don't make me think” to describe any successful digital application. This also applies to dpa’s new price structure.

The editorship and management wish to convey their heartfelt thanks to the more than a thousand of our team colleagues of the dpa group. Nothing would be possible without them. We all realise that we must be in a constant state of readiness. After all, the coronavirus crisis will certainly not be the last major challenge that we, our customers, shareholders, partners and Germany as a whole will have to face. 

Yours sincerely, 

Peter Kropsch

Hamburg, April 2020