Invest more or cut jobs? Two German weeklies try options,get varying results

News: While Der Spiegel has seen decline in Its circulation,Die zeit is celebrating record sales and gains in advertising

Written by New York Times | Serraval,france | Published: April 30, 2013 1:13:45 am

ERIC PFANNER

The two most respected newsweeklies in Germany,Der Spiegel and Die Zeit,are both based in Hamburg,and both were founded by icons of postwar journalism in Germany. But now their businesses seem to be headed in opposite directions.

This month,as Der Spiegel,a magazine,was firing its top two editors amid a long slump in circulation,Die Zeit,a newspaper,was celebrating record sales and big gains in advertising. Their diverging fortunes underscore different approaches to news publishing in the digital era.

Der Spiegel has been the standard-bearer for investigative reporting in Germany since 1962. But other German publications and media organisations have begun to invest heavily in investigative reporting,and Der Spiegel no longer has a monopoly on scoops about political scandals.

Three weeks ago,Der Spiegel dismissed Georg Mascolo,the editor of its print edition,and Mathias Müller von Blumencron,editor of Spiegel Online. Insiders say Mascolo and von Blumencron had been cast aside because of an inability to work together on a plan to join the print and digital arms of Der Spiegel. The backdrop to the management turmoil is a steep slide in sales of Der Spiegel. Circulation fell to 883,000 in the first quarter from more than 1 million as recently as 2009.

The decline of Der Spiegel contrasts strikingly with the growth of Die Zeit. Since 2002,the newspaper’s circulation has risen 22 percent,reaching a record of 520,000 in the first quarter of this year. Advertising revenue has increased 74 percent,and circulation revenue 58 percent in that period.

What has Die Zeit done differently? Investigative reporting has never been the leitmotif of the newspaper. Unlike Der Spiegel,it has cultivated links with the establishment.

Rainer Esser,general manager of Zeit Verlag,the publishing house that owns the newspaper,says an upbeat approach is the key to the recent success. Five years ago Die Zeit added a glossy magazine,which has been popular with advertisers.

“We are not so interested by things in Germany that don’t work,” Esser said. “We are more interested in issues and subject matters and projects that do work.”

Esser said that while many newspapers and magazines have been cutting jobs to cope with the crisis in print journalism,Die Zeit has invested heavily.

Over the past decade,the editorial staff has grown to 200 from 120. “Our major focus has been on increasing investment,not on cutting costs,”he said.

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