German publisher cuts hundreds of jobs, will rely on AI

The opportunities of artificial intelligence may lead to further editorial cuts, Europe’s largest newspaper Bild has warned its staff. The publisher recently announced a €100M cost-saving program, with lay-offs to fall in the “low three-digit range.”

Publisher Axel Springer SE recently sent an email to its employees, which sparked some controversy. As seen by major German competitor Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ), “The functions of editor-in-chief, editors, proofreaders, secretaries, and photo editors will no longer exist as they do today.”

As the publisher goes AI, it would “unfortunately be parting ways with colleagues who have tasks that are replaced by AI and/or automated processes in the digital world, or who do not find themselves in this new team with their current skills.”

Axel Springer owns Bild, Die Wel, Fakt, Politico, Business Insider, and other media brands.

Bild unveiled its cost-saving program of €100 million in late February. At that time, CEO Mathias Döpfner stated that the company would adopt a "digital only" approach, prioritizing digital platforms before print.

Later, it became clear what shape this strategy would have, FAZ writes. Employees were informed about a low three-digit number of lay-offs, the closing of some regional editions and locations, and thinning of the management level.

“Low” can mean that at least 200 employees have to go. However, these short-term redundancies are not believed to be caused by AI.

Döpfner earlier predicted that AI would soon be better at the “aggregation of information” than human journalists and said that only publishers who created “the best original content” – such as investigative journalism and original commentary – would survive, as reported by the Guardian.

A Bild spokesperson told the Guardian that there are many areas where AI application is being explored. “We believe in the opportunities of AI. We want to use them at Axel Springer to make journalism better and maintain independent journalism in the long term.”

Many professions are at risk of becoming obsolete as AI goes mainstream. chief editor Jurgita Lapienyte shares her view about the future of journalism in an opinion piece entitled “Will we still need journalists in the AI era?”

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