Ever Wondered What a Chief Digital Officer Does?

Sanne describes herself as an 'intrapreneur at heart'The NextWomen Europe Theme

Sanne Walvisch is the Chief Digital Officer at G+J Netherlands, a Dutch magazine publishing company circulating such prolific magazines as National Geographic, Vogue and Glamour.

Prior to taking up this position, she was a freelance digital strategist and has worked with NOS, Sanoma Media, Ambo/Anthos and Layar to name but a few.

We spoke to Sanne about the role of Chief Digital Officer; the difficulties of adopting digital tech across a business; and why she’s an intrapreneur at heart!

TNW: Chief Digital Officer, it is a fairly new position? What does a CDO do?

SW: G+J Uitgevers has the ambition to grow from a 100% magazine publisher to a 360 degree media company. To achieve this we've created the position of Chief Digital Officer.

The goal of the CDO is to create and manage a broad digital strategy and, most importantly, to drive change and innovation through the organization.

TNW: How is it different from a CMO or CIP? Does every company need a CDO?

SW: Nowadays, as digital strategies became more important, we are seeing lots of 'new' positions related to managing this topic. At the end of the day it's not about the title, it's about what the company needs to achieve and attracting the right people to achieve this. A lot of 'old-school' media companies are fumbling their overall digital strategies and looking for new business models.

It's not only about marketing OR content OR innovation. Appointing a CDO is a good place to start in driving change and innovation.

TNW: What skills do you have that make you a great CDO? Which past experiences have been helpful in your current role?

SW: I'm an experienced digital manager. An entrepreneur at heart. An evangelist. I have a lot of experience implementing emerging technologies within traditional media companies. And last but not least, although pixels are my first love, I adore the smell of fresh paper. 

TNW: What difficulties do companies experience when adopting digital technologies across a business?


Media companies are used to being the king of the universe. In the digital era the universe has changed and it takes courage and flexibility to embrace this.

Traditional business models are under enormous pressure although we have not yet found the new Holy Grail.

TNW: You have had many hats in the past, are you an entrepreneur or a corporate person?

SW: I'm an intrapreneur at heart. Although I enjoyed being a freelance consultant and I may well become an entrepreneur once again. Aside from that, themost important thing for me personally is to 'fall in love' with the brands I work for. That's why G+J Uitgevers is the perfect fit.

TNW: Are you looking to startups to bring you digital innovations?


I would like to invite everybody with bright and crisp ideas to come by and drink a cup of coffee with me.

(Oh dear: I think I may have to clear out my agenda in the next couple of months!)

TNW: In Europe where do you see the opportunities in your industry?

SW: The publishing industry is still looking for the Holy Grail. At this point in time we can only guess what the next big thing will be. There will always be room for inspiring, premium magazines. I expect that the brands will increase importance and with that the actual appearance (pixels, print, apps, social, events) will grow even more diverse. Magazine thinking (i.e. telling the most inspiring stories and curating the latest trends, news and products) is actually one of the most important skills in the digital era. There are a thousand new ways we can use these skills in order to create new (digital) products.

I'm very positive about new initiatives like crowd funded journalism, paid content and new forms of digital publishing. 

TNW: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

SW: Ouch. To be honest: I have no clue; 5 years feel like an eternity. I guess by that time I will be doing something I can't even imagine right now. Hopefully I will still do it with the same love and passion as I do now.

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