Axel Springer CEO tells Politico staffers no decision made on paywall: report

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Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner said he made a mistake last week when he announced plans to implement a paywall for Politico, which the company recently acquired.

When asked about the paywall, Döpfner admitted his mistake in a Q&A session with staffers on Thursday, according to Axios.

“The answer is no. Absolutely not. No decision has been made. My answer honestly was very unfortunate. It was my mistake,” Döpfner said about moving Politico’s free content behind a paywall, according to audio of the call obtained by Axios. 

“Previous reports on this were wrong due to an errant comment and there are no plans to implement a paywall at Politico,” a spokesperson for Politico confirmed in an email statement to The Hill.

Döpfner did, however, note the importance of paid content for the Arlington, Va.-based political news outlet. 

“The immediate answer — do you implement a paywall? I said no but then I elaborated how important paid content is for us and I believe in that. That is actually the main reason we acquired Politico because it was based so much on a subscription model,” Döpfner said on the call, per Axios.

He added that the company should refer to it as “paid content or subscriptions and never again paywall, because I truly think — apart from the Berlin Wall — it is a negative psychology. Wall excludes people or keeps people imprisoned and that’s not what we should do. It’s an offering, so in general, something positive.”

The Wall Street Journal reported last week said that Döpfner expected Politico’s free content to go behind a paywall in the medium term.

Less than two months before Döpfner’s remarks to the Journal he told Politico staffers that “we’re from Berlin, we don’t like the concept of walls,” Axios also reported. 

Axel Springer announced in August that it would purchase Politico and confirmed on Tuesday that the acquisition was complete. The company also owns other media companies including Insider and Morning Brew. 

–Updated 5:20 p.m.


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