Sebastian Turner is a German media entrepreneur and author.
Sebastian Turner started his professional life in the media business as a founder: In 1985 he launched Medium, today Germany’s leading magazine for journalists. As CEO he turned the international communications agency Scholz & Friends, into the largest independent agency network in Europe. He initiated the leading global science conference Falling Walls. During his tenure as publisher and shareholder Tagesspiegel established a vertical digital eco system and became Germany’s leading capital newsorganisation, moving from rank four to rank one with the best circulation performance of all German dailies. As founder of the media tech holding Trafo he ventures into the growing field of media tech and content tech. Turner holds a degree of the Graduate School of Duke University, USA, and serves as a honorary professor at the University of the Arts in Berlin.
Sebastian Turner was born 1966 in Clausthal-Zellerfeld in the Harz mountains, Germany, and grew up in Stuttgart. He studied political science, business administration, journalism, and economic history in Bonn (Germany) and the U.S., graduating in 1990 with a Master of Arts at Duke University (Durham, N.C., USA). Turner’s first start-up of a company dates back to his highschool years. In 1985 he established the trade journal Medium, Magazine for Journalists, today the leading independent journalism publication in Germany. Prior to this, he established a student newspaper at his highschool (1981), which was awarded Germany’s best, and in 1983 a student magazine for his home town Stuttgart, that became one of the largest student-owned companies in the country. Turner earned the money for his academic education as a freelance writer for Frankfurter Allgemeine, Die Zeit, WDR public broadcasting, and Geo magazine. In 1988 he was admitted to the Henri Nannen School of Journalism of Gruner+Jahr/Bertelsmann and Die Zeit, but he declined due to a scholarship grant at Duke University. After his graduation in the U.S. Turner, born in West Germany and a human rights activist, moved in 1990 to failing communist East Germany (DDR). In Dresden and later on in Berlin he established a communications agency which became part of the Scholz & Friends Group. During his tenure as CEO (until 2008) Scholz & Friends was awarded the most creative agency in Germany several times and became the largest independent agency group in Europe with a staff of 1.600. Among his creative work is „the campaign of the century“ (Spiegel) for Frankfurter Allgemeine („There is always a clever mind behind it“ / „Dahinter steckt immer ein kluger Kopf“, the most awarded campaign in postwar Germany), a successful rescue campaign for „taz, die Tageszeitung“ and the „Wir können alles. Außer Hochdeutsch“ („We are perfect, if you ignore our accent“) for the federal state Baden-Württemberg. In 1995 he became a co-founder of the digital service agency Aperto AG, which became an industry leader that was acquired by IBM. In 1999 Turner was awarded „Man of the year“ by trade journal „New Business“, in 2006 he became the youngest member in the Hall of Fame of Wirtschaftswoche magazine, and the German Association of Communication Agencies. In 1999 Turner is among the founders of „Germany’s first start-up incubator“ (manager magazin), which developed into the internet holding company Econa AG, a company builder for digital businesses.
From 2013 to 2020 Sebastian Turner served as a member of the supervisory council of the media group of Dieter von Holtzbrinck DvH Medien GmbH (Die Zeit, Handelsblatt, Wirtschaftswoche, Tagesspiegel), Stuttgart, from 2014 to 2020 he acted as publisher and shareholder of Tagesspiegel. In this period Tagesspiegel moved from fourth largest daily of the German capital to number one marking the best circulation development of all German dailies. With a marketshare of 45 per cent the sold circulation of Tagesspiegel in 2020 almost equals the combined circulation of newspapers no. 2 and no. 3. As a part of a holistic innovation strategy Tagesspiegel created a digital eco system of new vertical offerings, among them the first hyperlocal district newsletters Tagesspiegel Leute, the first Berlin morning newsletters Tagesspiegel Morgenlage and the acclaimed Tagesspiegel Checkpoint, the B2B verticals Tagesspiegel Background and Tagesspiegel Politikmonitoring. The print edition launched new sections like „Agenda“ und „Causa“ and Tagesspiegel became a leading conference organizer with over 100 annual gatherings. The strategy of verticalizing a quality media brand lead to a significant growth in revenue, size of the editorial team and quotations, all in contrast to general industry trends.
In 2017 Sebastian Turner established the media tech holding Trafo to identify and shape trends in content tech. Trafo invests and cooperates with technology driven media companies like the survey tech companies Civey and Opinary, the AI research company Delphai , and the local news initiative „Rums“ in Muenster, Germany. In 2018 Turner was awarded „Media manager of the year“ (kress report).
Besides this entrepreneurial activities Sebastian Turner volunteers in charitable causes with a focus on children and science.
He supports the Kindergarten training program House of little researchers (Haus der kleinen Forscher) and Unicef. Based on his initiative his home town Stuttgart is moving forward to become the most child friendly major city in Germany and established the Kuratorium kinderfreundliches Stuttgart.
Turner was a member of the board (Präsidium) of the German Protestant Church convention (Präsidium Kirchentag) and president of the Art Directors Clubs in Germany and board member of the Art Directors Club Europe. Turner was appointed by the SPD-led Berlin Senate as a board member of the Einstein Foundation Berlinfor the promotion of research excellence. With a op-ed piece in Tagesspiegel he launched the vision of the digital capital Berlin („Digitalhauptstadt Berlin“) setting the target of 100 additional computer science professors at Berlin universities, to attract talent and investment. This spark lead to the establishment of the Einstein Centrum Digital Future with over 70 new professors.
In 1992 Turner became the first lecturer at the neue Institute for communication science at Dresden University of Technology. He served as guest professor and honorary professor at the University of the Arts in Berlin. Turner is among the initiators of the Berlin School of Creative Leadership and supporters of the University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde (FH). In 2010 he founded the charitable Falling Walls Foundation that convenes every year at the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (9 November) leading international researchers and innovators. Expanded to the Berlin Science Week the 20.000 participants mark one of the largest science festivals worldwide.
In 2012 Turner was nominated as an independent candidate for lord mayor of his home town by the Stuttgart members of Christian Democrats CDU, the party of chancellor Merkel. He campaigned to make Stuttgart the „city of education“ („Bildungshauptstadt“) and attracted 45,3 per cent of the popular vote. This was a significant improvement over the CDU results for city council in 2009 (24,3 per cent) and one of the best turnouts for a centrist candidate in recent major city elections in Germany. The election, however, was won by the former national party chairman and federal parliament faction of the Green party, Fritz Kuhn.
Together with the president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Dennis Snower, Sebastian Turner initiated in 2016 on the occasion of the German G20 presidency the Global Solutions Initiative. It convenes key advisors and leaders of the G20 process at an annual meeting in Berlin. In 2018 together with Charles Landry, the London autor and city sociologist, Turner founded the Creative Bureaucracy Festival as an annual meeting celebrating innovation in the public sector.
CV Sebastian Turner
|1966||born in Clausthal-Zellerfeld/Harz, childhood in Stuttgart|
|1985||Founding Medium, Magazine for Journalists, publisher until 1995|
|1990||Master of Arts, Duke University, USA, Political Science, Journalism, Business Administration|
|1991||Founding Scholz & Friends Dresden (communications, until 2008 as CEO of Scholz & Friends Group / Commarco-Holding, since 2011 part of WPP)|
|1992||Lecturer at Dresden University of Technology; Lecturer, guestprofessor, honorary professor at the University of the Arts Berlin|
|1995||Founding Aperto AG, Berlin (digital services, today a part of IBM)|
|1998||Board member Art Directors Club for Germany (until 2010) 2000 to 2004 president|
|1999||Founding Econa AG, Berlin (digital company builder and investor)|
|2002||Initiation of the Berlin School of Creative Leadership (program start 2006)|
|2003||Member of the board, German Protestant Church convention (Präsidium Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag, until 2009)|
|2006||Member Hall of Fame, Wirtschaftswoche, German Association of Communication Agencies GWA|
|2009||Member of the board, Einstein Foundation Berlin (until 2013)|
|2010||Founding Falling Walls Foundation (charity), Berlin|
|2010||Member, German board of trustees, Unicef|
|2012||Independent candidate for office of lord mayor of the city of Stuttgart|
|2013||Member of the supervisory board, DvH Medien GmbH, Stuttgart (until 2020).|
|2014||Publisher and shareholder Tagesspiegel (until 2020).|
|2016||Initiation annual Berlin Science Week,Initiation Global Solutions Initiative|
|2017||Founding Trafo (media tech und content tech), Berlin|
|2018||Initiation Creative Bureaucracy Festival, BerlinAward media manager of the year, Kress Report|
|2020||Initiation of Content Tech Conference as part of the Media Tech Hub Conference Potsdam|