What does a … Audience Development Manager?

Name: Marius Bortolusso

Age: 34

Position: Head of Audience Development

Education: Businessman for Audiovisual Media, MBA in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management

Company: Bauer Xcel, Hamburg

What do you do?

As Head of Audience Development, I’m responsible for the sustainable reach growth of Bauer’s digital brands at Bauer Bauer together with my team, as well as for the development of a content ecosystem that focuses on users and their needs. Our goal is to attract new users to our digital offerings and retain them for our brands over the long term.

We are strategic in-house consulting and information interface in one. With the help of a stable database, we optimize the products for all users of Bauer Xcel Media. In addition to the maintenance and expansion of our own-media channels, it is primarily about the traffic diversification and identification of reach potentials. In order to achieve the widest possible range on the large number of different touchpoints, our content must also be processed on a channel-specific basis. Of course, not only do we have to keep an eye on and analyze our objects, but we also have to analyze the market and its trends. In addition, training and consultations of our editorial teams in the areas of SEO and social media are a central component of our work.


At present, we are also intensively involved in standardizing our data infrastructure and networking the different data sources. Our goal: to set up our own data warehouse. Content personalization is also on our list of priorities.

A diverse range of tasks also requires a special organization: In contrast to many companies, the areas of Business Intelligence, Audience Engagement and Performance Marketing belong to the Audience Development division.

How did you come to this task?

My heart has always been to build and develop digital business models. As a trained audiovisual merchandiser, after short trips to the insurance industry and management consultancy, following my MBA in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management 2015, I decided to return to my professional roots. My first stop: a social journalism startup in Switzerland. Shortly thereafter followed a trip to self-employment. Together with a partner, I have implemented my own project in the publishing environment.

I came across the position at Bauer Xcel by chance. The challenge of bringing my knowledge to one of the leading media companies was immediately very exciting.

Describe as clearly as possible a project that has particularly impressed you.

Basically, my job inspires me again and again, because he is versatile and fast-paced. The diversification of our reach channels and the associated user centering in the context of the emancipation of some dominant sources of traffic is, however, a recurring theme for which my heart beats. A concrete example is certainly the realignment of our range strategy 2016.

Facebook had grown incredibly fast in the years before and significantly changed the global media consumption. In 2016, Facebook even positioned itself for the first time worldwide before Google as the most important reach channel for publishers. The result: a large number of publishers increasingly geared their own strategy to Facebook. At that time, we also launched two websites with our brands, Männersache und Liebenswert, which explicitly address the needs of social network users as social brands.

Already in 2016, there were first signs of upcoming changes on Facebook, which implied a reach risk for publishers. When the changes to the Facebook algorithm and the associated range collapse came in 2017, we were prepared, because we had already begun to adapt our strategy with foresight. Thanks to data-driven reach optimization, a strong focus on the diversification of our coverage channels and a few other measures, we not only compensated for the losses on Facebook, but also significantly increased our reach in the same period. Of course, this example is representative of all external traffic channels of publishers, as shown in particular by the many algorithm adjustments made by Google in 2018.

For us in audience development, it is important to anticipate such developments as early as possible and to take countermeasures with appropriate measures. While it was sufficient for publishers just a few years ago to distribute content primarily through their own distribution channels, nowadays it is more important than ever to provide the user with as many touch points with the brand and content as possible. The content must be prepared for each channel. For this a stable data basis as well as a deep target group and market understanding are indispensable.

Which feature helps you the most in your everyday life? Why?

I am a very curious person and love to face changing challenges that require creative approaches and ways of thinking. This leads me to constantly have to put myself in new questions. I fundamentally question a lot and enjoy trying out new things. In addition to flexibility and a constant desire for further development, it is particularly important not to be guided by safety concerns and not to be afraid of making mistakes. This is where the open error culture and agile way of working in the farmer Xcel comes in handy. After all, the crucial thing is ultimately to draw the right conclusions from mistakes and correct them as quickly as possible.

Basically, I’m more of a calm and laid-back type – qualities that benefit me in light of the fast pace of life and the ever-changing market environment. Especially in stressful situations and in complex situations, it is important to keep track and break up the problem into its individual parts. Then it works well with the appropriate measures.

What is most important to you about your job? What is the most fun?

The positive working atmosphere and collegial cooperation are two decisive factors for me. This applies both in-house and across departments.

In terms of content, I especially appreciate the varied and varied range of tasks. On the one hand, we are responsible for a data-driven optimization of reach and processes in the company. This requires a high level of analytical skills and intensive familiarization with rapidly changing subject areas.

On the other hand, as a consultant and enabler we are in constant communication with all departments in the company as well as external service providers. This requires particular communication skills, empathy and mediation skills. Because successful audience development does not work alone, but is primarily associated with a good deal of teamwork.

Last but not least, as an interface department, we have a holistic view of the company and can therefore develop solutions for a variety of different challenges. It is our task to transfer the insights into the company and to ensure an active transfer of knowledge as well as to bring together and connect the stakeholders from the various departments. This requires a high degree of openness and transparency.

In addition, I find it exciting to work in such a dynamic market environment in which we constantly have to deal with the latest technical and social trends. Because only in this way can we inspire our target groups in the future for our offers. As a result, I continue to develop myself both professionally and personally.

My job is indispensable because …

… users in the digital world today have access to an infinite supply of interesting content – all in an ever-growing number of touchpoints. To continue to reach them with our own offerings, we need to understand how they think and what they want. To do this, we must analyze the multitude of data available to us and derive meaningful measures from them. These should be based primarily on users’ needs and behavior and should not be based on gut feelings or personal opinions. Only in this way can neutral, data-driven business decisions be made.

As Audience Development Manager, we help to democratize the data in the company. This enables data-driven range optimization for all departments as well as a user-centered touchpoint development.

If you were not Head of Audience Development, what would you be?

I’m very happy with what I do. If I were not the Head of Audience Development, I would probably be following one of my many ideas more closely, setting up my own startup, or switching back to management consulting.

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