Paper is dead, ink is drying up, the newsstand is a wasteland and the future will be backlit, animated and user-generated. That may be if you’re a tech entrepreneur riding around on your Segway in Marin Country and you’ve bet a small fortune launching a new media device that will be a shortwave, broadsheet, TV and cassette player/recorder all in one. It all sounds like a load of nonsense, however, if you’re a press baron in Hamburg with a view of the container ships silently gliding up the Elbe laden with reels of glossy paper bound for printing plants all over the Federal Republic.
If the past few months have been punctuated by tales of doom for print media, particularly from the far side of the Atlantic, it’s been quite the opposite in Germany. Long before Chancellor Merkel led her country out of recession there were teams of editors, art directors and junior designers working in unmarked offices preparing magazine launches to fill tastes ranging from the pastoral to culinary to nurturing.
While the German ad market has been every bit as ugly as the UK’s or US’s, the lack of pages hasn’t had the same effect on media houses in Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. Where there’s scarcely a magazine job available in Manhattan, one of Monocle’s correspondents in Munich is locked away in a project office in the centre of the city working on a new top-secret launch for one of the country’s more muscular media houses.
Over the past few weeks bundles of new titles have landed at kiosks at Hauptbahnhofs and S-Bahn stations across Germany. For men who want to mix the odd style tip with their celebrities, there’s Gala Men (spun-off from the highly successful Gala franchise) with a bronzed Brad Pitt on the cover. For the young entrepreneur keen to set up his own venture Business Punk has a rather old-looking Richard Branson on the cover. And for the budding chef from Dresden who fancies himself as the next Jamie Oliver, Beef is a book-ish periodical full of recipes, ingredients, lots of flesh (bovine and the odd bit in a bikini) and bits of reportage. Indeed, many German publishers are keen to expand their offer to male readers beyond cars and fashion and there’s a hope that small business and food will attract ad pages from tech companies, insurance houses, olive oil producers and brewers.
Should this strategy not work, there’s also the promising looking Nido from the Stern franchise. Slick, black and perfectly timed to tie in with the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, Nido is aimed squarely at parents who were in their late teens and early twenties in 1989 and want to raise their children on the streets of Mitte and in sprawling apartments in edgier pockets of the German capital.
But perhaps the most robust stretch of the newsstand is the shelf targeting people who want nothing to do with the city and fantasise about owning a little stretch of fertile land in Schleswig-Holstein, a cute tractor and a couple of cows. Landlust by Landwirtschaftsverlag has become one of the most successful recent launches in Germany and has spawned a host of copy-cats keen to cash in on the agriculture trend that would have the casual bystander think that the Bundesrepublik is turning its back on manufacturing and going back to feudal life. If putting good old ink on paper has become the quaint corner of modern media then it only makes sense that cosy content is the engine for sustaining the sector.