Going Global: Read all about it

Most Brits know little about Gruner & Jahr, but the German publishing behemoth is rapidly making its mark on the international media scene.

Gruner who?!

When I arrived in the UK around 18 months ago, I was spoiled. In Germany, most people know Gruner & Jahr very well as they are regular readers of our magazines, frequent users of our websites, or have otherwise been in contact with one of our 350-plus brands worldwide.

In the UK, this situation is a bit different, probably because we don't publish any magazines or own any media companies over here.

When I was introduced to people, I was often asked "Gruner who?", or met with "Ah, the German magazine publisher". As the managing director of the UK sales office representing Europe's largest publishing house, the task of changing this perception fell to me.

I began to explain who we are and what we can do for our media partners in the UK, and I would like to share with you some of my experiences since my arrival. But first, you will need to know a little about us.

G&J started life as a publishing house in Hamburg, Germany. Since then, it has grown into an international powerhouse with both a strong media portfolio and an engaged audience. Today, G&J derives more than half its revenue from abroad, making it one of the most international publishers in the world. Our parent is the media giant Bertelsmann, which, from its headquarters in the small German town of Gutersloh, manages a network of more than 1,000 companies, employing 100,000-plus people in 50 countries. G&J's siblings include the number-one European broadcaster, RTL Group, and the world's largest book publisher, Random House.

In fact, our business is becoming increasingly global. We are currently launching our magazines in new markets across the world. The reportage magazine GEO, for example, is now sold in 21 countries and is continuing its international expansion online. After successfully launching in Spain at www.mundo-geo.es last January, it is now launching websites in Finland, Russia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Croatia.

As with the print edition, GEO also relies on a central concept for its online offerings. Editorial responsibility lies with the local editors, who can use their own content alongside that of the German edition to achieve the best possible fit with a country's culture.

Another of our magazines, GALA, has also become a recognised international brand. We recently launched it in several countries and are delighted about its latest presence in the fast-growing Middle-East region. The editorial mix of society news, people and fashion also works well online.

The international GALA websites show fantastic growth rates of up to 400 per cent within a year. We have also taken our science titles and Parents Magazine family international. The latter offers advertisers nine countries, nine websites and five magazines - all with a single reservation, which makes it easy to communicate successfully and conveniently across national borders.

Parallel to these expansions, we are also actively acquiring international media brands, mainly in future markets such as Eastern Europe, India, South America and China.

We have been beefing up our investments in the Chinese publishing house RAY LI since 2006, and have now developed the country's second-biggest magazine portfolio by circulation and revenue. RAY LI's women's and lifestyle publications lead the market in high-end Chinese magazines by quite a margin. The company also sets trends in brand expansion and new-media business development, operating Asia's leading women's portal, rayli.com.cn, which registers six million visits a day.

In the men's market, G&J launched a monthly magazine, LEON, earlier this year. An upmarket publication, it caters to men aged between 30 and 45 who have a high disposable income and are interested in wearable fashions and a high-end lifestyle.

Closer to home, there's the success of Lufthansa Magazine, with 1.4 million readers among Europe's top decision-makers (source: EMS 2008). The magazine family consists of Lufthansa Exclusive, which is sent every month to the homes of more than 280,000 HON Circle Members, Senators and Frequent Travellers, and Lufthansa Women's World, which addresses 200,000 women in Germany who fly more than ten times a year.

G&J's corporate media division is also expected to grow over the coming months via new-business launches, which will be a key part of our future strategy in all markets.

G&J works with associated companies around the globe too, creating country packages for clients and marketing our portfolio, particularly on a pan-European level. Currently, we are talking to a number of media partners for representation from the UK office.

After 18 months, we have come a long way and the hard work is paying off. We have positioned ourselves closer to our UK partners through advertising, PR and tailored client events, while managing to more than double our client and agency contacts. We regularly invite specialists from international media and the digital world, and senior editors from key titles, to speak to our clients and create direct contacts. This, and the growing support from the industry, makes me excited as we continue to showcase our relevancy as a global media partner.

- Sibel Uener is the managing director of Gruner & Jahr