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Rede von BDZV-Vizepräsident Helmut Heinen anlässlich des Zeitungskongresses am 18. Oktober 1999 in Berlin

Es gilt das gesprochene Wort!

Bonn, 18. Oktober 1999

 

Wir Verleger sind gerne nach Berlin gekommen. Die neue Hauptstadt der Bundesrepublik Deutschland ist eine Stadt im Aufbruch. Und Aufbruch ist ein anderes Wort für Dynamik. Zeitungen sind dynamische Medien. Deshalb fühlen wir uns in der traditionsreichen Zeitungsstadt Berlin zu Hause. Hier an Spree und Havel begegnen sich Geschichte, Gegenwart und Zukunft auf vergleichsweise engem Raum.

Berlin ist die sichtbarste Baustelle der deutschen Einheit. Zehn Jahre nach der epochalen europäischen Wende im Herbst 1989 ist es, so meine ich, durchaus berechtigt, an dieser Stelle in der Mitte Berlins daran zu erinnern, welchen Anteil das gedruckte freie Wort an den gravierenden politischen und gesellschaftlichen Veränderungen hatte. Unsere Zeitungen im Westen waren Leuchttürme publizistischer Freiheit in einer für die Menschen im Osten dieser Stadt und in der ehemaligen DDR dunklen Zeit. Und sie waren verlässliche Wegbegleiter beim Übergang von der alten, freiheitsfeindlichen Gesellschaft in die neue demokratische und pluralistische Ordnung.

In unserer schnellebigen Zeit wird das oft vergessen: Die Sehnsucht nach dem freien Wort, nach dem durch keine staatliche oder gesellschaftliche Gewalt reglementierten Denken war eine der stärksten Triebfedern der demokratischen Revolution der Deutschen.

Heute sind die Zeitungen, sind alle Medien aufgerufen, den Menschen in dem Gebiet unseres Landes, das wir so pauschal und abstrakt "die neuen Bundesländer" nennen, dabei zu helfen, die demokratische Ordnung auch innerlich anzunehmen. Dass dieser demokratischen Verfassungsordnung noch immer mit großen Vorbehalten begegnet wird, dass heute vielfach die "Gleichheit" vor der Freiheit rangiert, sollte zu denken geben. Die sogenannten historischen Jahre der Deutschen, meine Damen und Herren, lassen sich nicht auf die kurze Zeitspanne von 1989 bis 1999 beschränken. Vor uns liegen vielmehr weitere deutsche Schicksals- beziehungsweise Schlüsseljahre. Das gilt sowohl nach innen als auch nach außen. Abermals stehen Richtungsentscheidungen an.

Wir freuen uns deshalb, dass Sie, Herr Bundeskanzler, zu uns gekommen sind. Sie waren ja bereits in Ihrer früheren Funktion als Ministerpräsident des Landes Niedersachsen unser Gast; ich erinnere an die Jahrestagung 1997 in Goslar. Die deutschen Zeitungsverleger haben der Bundesregierung unter Ihrer Führung schon beim Zeitungskongress 1998, kurz nach der Bundestagswahl, "kritische Loyalität" zugesichert, wie sie das im Übrigen auch gegenüber früheren Bundesregierungen getan haben. Daran hat sich nichts geändert.

Sie sollen wissen, Herr Bundeskanzler: Wir anerkennen, dass Sie in einer politisch, vor allem weltpolitisch schwierigen Zeit Ihr Amt angetreten haben. Die vergangenen Monate haben Ihnen in der Europa-, aber auch in der Innenpolitik viel abverlangt. Die deutsche Präsidentschaft in der Europäischen Union war eines der turbulentesten Halbjahre in der EU-Geschichte. Noch nie war eine neue Bundesregierung so schnell vor historisch zu nennende Entscheidungen gestellt. Stichwort: Kosovo. "Kritische Loyalität" aber heißt, dass man auch Meinungsunterschiede und tiefgreifende Gegensätze offen benennt. Und wir werden uns die Freiheit nehmen, dies zu tun. Auch in dieser Stunde!

Doch lassen Sie mich zunächst etwas Grundsätzliches sagen. Politik und Presse leben in einem Spannungsverhältnis. Das ist natürlich. Denn die Presse hat dafür Sorge zu tragen, dass Fragen von öffentlichem Interesse auch offen und frei erörtert werden können. Damit ist der Demokratie am meisten gedient. Mancher Politiker verharrt im Misstrauen gegenüber dieser Öffentlichkeitsfunktion der Medien. Doch halten wir es mit Ralf Dahrendorf, der Demokratie als "Regierung durch Konflikt" apostrophierte. Erst durch das Austragen und gegebenenfalls auch Aushalten von Gegensätzen bleibt eine Gesellschaft dynamisch.

In dieser dynamischen Gesellschaft gilt: Politik und Presse bewegen sich zwar in zwei unterschiedlichen, aber deshalb nicht in unversöhnlichen Sphären.Sie sind keinesfalls feindliche Brüder. Ohnehin sind Feindbilder einer Demokratie nicht adäquat. Ich behaupte sogar: Politik und Presse sind aufeinander angewiesen. Die Politik braucht die Presse, um für ihre Initiativen, Gesetzesvorhaben und Meinungen zu werben. Je komplizierter und komplexer die tägliche Politik wird, desto mehr bedarf es der differenzierten und einordnenden Darstellung von Politik.

Ich halte nichts davon, ein Medium gegen das andere auszuspielen. Printmedien und elektronische Medien handeln nach jeweils anderen Gesetzmäßigkeiten, die in ihrer Natur begründet sind. Aber eines dürfte heute sicher sein: Mit maximal drei Minuten im Fernsehen lässt sich kein Gesetzesvorhaben wie die Steuerreform oder die Rentenreform erklären. Das auf das Bild fixierte Fernsehen emotionalisiert. Sachliche, differenzierte Information kann man von ihm nicht erwarten. Wer liest, kann länger und vor allem genauer hinschauen, kann meist zur gleichen Zeit verschiedene Meinungen einholen, kann abwägen, kann sich eine eigene Meinung bilden. Talkshows und Anbrüllsendungen begründen keine Argumentationskultur.

Ich weiß nicht, ob es gut ist und ob es letztlich der Politik bekommt, wenn sie sich allzu stark am Fernsehen und seinen Zwängen ausrichtet. Oftmals kann man den Eindruck gewinnen, die Politik hat sich den Mikrofonen und Kameras ausgeliefert. Wenn sie sich sklavisch an den magischen Zeiten von "heute" und "tagesschau", nur an der "besten Sendezeit" orientiert, gerät Politik leicht zur Inszenierung. Das aber kann nicht im Interesse der Bürger sein.

Wir Zeitungsverleger sind keine Ignoranten, keine modernen Bilderstürmer. Die Existenz des Fernsehens können und wollen wir nicht wegdiskutieren. Aber etwas mehr Respekt vor dem gedruckten Wort und den Produktionsbedingungen der Presse dürfen wir von der Politik schon erwarten. Ich sage nochmals: in deren eigenem Interesse. Auch in einer "Mediendemokratie" darf es keine Privilegien und auch keine Hierarchien der Medien geben! Ohnehin neige ich dazu, den vielen "Bündnissen", die die deutsche Politik eingegangen ist, eines hinzuzufügen: ein Bündnis für das gedruckte Wort.

Die Pflege einer Lesekultur sollte eine der vornehmsten Aufgaben im kommenden Jahrzehnt sein. Wie wird auf diesem Gebiet gesündigt! Schauen Sie sich doch in unseren Schulen um! Welche Defizite tun sich da auf! Wenn es stimmt, dass Bildung die Soziale Frage des 21.Jahrhunderts wird - und ich zweifle gar nicht daran -, dann wird sich angesichts der Vernachlässigung der Kulturtechniken des Lesens und des Schreibens bald ein neuer Bildungsnotstand bemerkbar machen, mit wahrscheinlich gravierenderen Auswirkungen als in den 70-er Jahren.

Schon heute Vormittag habe ich über die erschreckende Tatsache gesprochen, dass die Zahl der funktionalen Analphabeten in Deutschland von Jahr zu Jahr wächst. Vier Millionen Menschen, darunter viele Jugendliche, können keinen zusammenhängenden Text lesen und seinen Sinn verstehen. Hier müssen die Zeitungen - auch aus ureigenem Interesse - aktiv werden und gegen diese traurige Entwicklung anarbeiten. Dabei muss uns klar sein, dass die wichtigste Verführung der Kinder zum Lesen durch die Sozialisation in der Familie geschieht; Zeitungen können diesen Prozess, gerade auch in Verbindung mit Leseförderungsmaßnahmen an den Schulen, unterstützen. Doch vielleicht gibt es Wege und Möglichkeiten über das bisher Geleistete hinaus, die wir nicht erkannt oder nicht genügend ausgeschöpft haben:

Eine solche erfolgversprechende Möglichkeit, Zeitungen mit der jungen Generation enger in Verbindung zu bringen, ist ein breit angelegter, bundesweiter Schülerwettbewerb, den der BDZV erstmals für das Jahr 2000 ausschreibt und der künftig alle zwei Jahre wiederholt werden soll. Dabei wollen wir uns orientieren an so hochkarätigen Initiativen wie "Jugend musiziert", "Jugend trainiert für Olympia" oder "Jugend forscht". Wir wollen die jungen Menschen zu einer intensiven Auseinandersetzung mit Zukunftsfragen motivieren. In enger Anlehnung an die Weltausstellung EXPO 2000 in Hannover sollen sich Schüler der Klassen 5 bis 13 aller Schulformen in ganz Deutschland darüber Gedanken machen, wie wohl die Themenbereiche Arbeit, Umwelt, Energie oder Kommunikation im Jahr 2020 aussehen.

Die offizielle Ausschreibung für den Schülerwettbewerb der Zeitungen in Deutschland beginnt in dieser Woche. Dabei werden wir unterstützt von drei Partnern: Ich möchte daher nicht versäumen, schon an dieser Stelle der Barmer Ersatzkasse, den deutschen Stromversorgern, vertreten durch die IZE, und dem Verband Deutscher Papierfabriken sehr herzlich für ihr Engagement zu danken.

Zu einem recht verstandenen Bündnis für das gedruckte Wort gehört auch, dass die Politik für angemessene Entwicklungsmöglichkeiten der Zeitungen sorgt. Zeitungen finanzieren sich aus dem Leser-, mehr noch aus dem Anzeigenmarkt. Letzterer ist in den vergangenen Jahren - im negativen Sinn - zum Experimentierfeld geworden. Die Brüsseler Werbeverbotspolitik war ein Tiefschlag gegen die wirtschaftliche und damit auch publizistische Leistungsfähigkeit der privaten Presse. Wir danken der Bundesregierung, dass sie in diesem Punkt in der Spur des Kabinetts Kohl bleibt, an der Klage gegen die EU-Richtlinie für ein Tabakwerbeverbot festhält und sich, wie auf dem NRW-Medienforum geschehen, klar zum Prinzip der Werbefreiheit bekennt.

Für Produkte, die legal hergestellt werden, muss auch legal geworben werden können. Selbst solche einfache Wahrheiten haben es mitunter schwer, Gehör zu finden. Werbung zu verbieten, heißt den Fluss von Informationen zu unterbinden. Kommt es hier einmal zum Sündenfall, wird weiter gesündigt werden. Anders gesagt: Auf das Verbot von Tabakwerbung folgt bald das für Alkohol, dann für Autos, Spielzeug etc. Die Koalition ist ja, was ihren grünen Teil betrifft, nicht frei von derartigen Verbotsgelüsten, wie wir wissen.

Herr Bundeskanzler, seien Sie konsequent! Belassen Sie es nicht bei der Klage gegen das Tabakwerbeverbot! Machen Sie auch allen deutschen Verbotsspielchen ein Ende! Damit stärken Sie auch die eigene Position in Brüssel. Und Sie wenden Schaden ab von den Printmedien. Wir Verleger sind keine Bittsteller gegenüber der Bundesregierung. Wir verlangen keine Subventionen. Wir sind für eine Modernisierung des Wirtschafts-, auch des Medienstandortes Deutschland. Aber wir möchten schon wissen, wohin die Reise geht. Diese Klarheit haben wir bisher vermisst.

Das Gesetz gegen die sogenannte "Scheinselbstständigkeit" und die Neuregelung der 630-Mark-Arbeitsverhältnisse waren keine vertrauensbildenden Maßnahmen. So schafft man nicht das gesellschaftliche Klima, das man für eine Politik der Erneuerung, für wirkliche Reformen braucht. Ich sage das in aller Deutlichkeit: Mit den katastrophalen Auswirkungen,die beide Gesetze haben, können wir uns nicht abfinden. Wenn bisher rund 20 000 der insgesamt 180 000 Zeitungszusteller ihre Tätigkeit gekündigt haben, so ist das als Alarmzeichen zu werten - und als Indiz, dass das Ziel der Gesetzesinitiatoren, zu mehr gesicherter Beschäftigung beizutragen, verfehlt wird. Beide Maßnahmen wirken jobvernichtend. Sie sind kontraproduktiv. Noch schlimmer: Es wird in den sensiblen, von der Verfassung mit geschützten Vertriebsbereich eingegriffen.

Herr Bundeskanzler, es gilt beim Machen von Gesetzen auf die Sozialverträglichkeit zu achten. Aber es gibt auch so etwas wie eine Pressefreiheitsverträglichkeit. Auf sie ist ebenfalls zu achten. Und gegen sie ist in eklatanter Weise verstoßen worden. Eine Korrektur der missratenen Gesetze ist überfällig. Jawohl, es gibt hier die Notwendigkeit der Korrektur. Zumal da die Neuregelung der geringfügigen Beschäftigungsverhältnisse zu einem schier unzumutbaren bürokratischen Aufwand und zu Kostensteigerungen geführt hat. Das sagen nicht nur wir, das bestätigen Ihnen auch andere betroffene Wirtschaftsverbände.

Das Gesetz zur Scheinselbstständigkeit und das veränderte 630-Mark-Gesetz sind Rückschläge für die Gründungsdynamik in Deutschland. Wir appellieren an Regierung und Koalition: Ignorieren Sie bitte nicht die Erfahrungen der Betroffenen! Es geht nicht nur um eine sozialpolitische, sondern um eine gesellschaftspolitische Frage ersten Ranges: die Sicherstellung der Verbreitung von gedruckten Informationen, also um ein Bürgerrecht. Ich bedauere es, dass dieser Aspekt in der Debatte zu wenig beachtet wurde oder aus egoistischen politischen Gründen ausgeblendet worden ist.

Die Bundesregierung hat am 22. September ein Aktionsprogramm unter der Bezeichnung "Innovation und Arbeitsplätze in der Informationsgesellschaft des 21. Jahrhunderts" verabschiedet. Die Idee findet unsere Zustimmung, natürlich. Und es gibt wahrscheinlich einen Konsens, dass diese "Informationsgesellschaft" nur gestaltet werden kann, wenn Staat und Wirtschaft eine gemeinsame Strategie entwickeln. Wieder geht es um Vertrauen. Wir haben nichts dagegen, wenn es das Ziel dieses Aktionsprogramms ist, alle Schulen, beruflichen Ausbildungsstätten, Einrichtungen der allgemeinen und beruflichen Weiterbildung mit multmediafähigen PCs und Internetanschlüssen bis zum Jahr 2001 auszustatten. Und wir haben auch nichts gegen eine "Innovationspartnerschaft zwischen Wirtschaft und Politik". Wir werden deshalb das Angebot zur Mitgestaltung annehmen.

Als Zeitungsverleger haben wir längst die Herausforderungen der neuen, auch digitalen Technik angenommen. Wir wissen um ihre Chancen, kennen aber auch ihre Risiken. Was wir selbst und aus eigener Kraft tun können, werden wir tun. Die "Vernetzung", von der die Regierung spricht, darf nicht dazu führen, dass die Kernkompetenz der privaten Presse - die Verbreitung redaktioneller Inhalte - weiter tangiert wird. Das gilt auch für das sich entwickelnde Online-Geschäft der Tageszeitungen. Neue Techniken beziehungsweise Technologien beeinflussen auch die Zeitungen. Rubrikenanzeigen, und damit eine wichtige Finanzierungsquelle der Presse, werden sich weg von der gedruckten Zeitung in elektronische Angebote verlagern. Auf diese Entwicklung gilt es zunächst einmal wettbewerbsorientiert zu reagieren, durch uns selbst.

Kooperationen und strategische Allianzen können ein Weg sein, Gefahren von der Zeitung abzuwehren. Aber nicht alles wird sich über den Wettbewerb regeln lassen. Hier ist auch die Medienpolitik gefordert. Sie hat dafür zu sorgen, dass nicht weitere Wettbewerbsverzerrungen zu Lasten des gedruckten Wortes eintreten. Dass das ZDF die Werbung in seinem Onlinedienst eingestellt hat, war ein Zeichen medienpolitischer Vernunft. Wir erwarten diese Vernunft auch von anderen Betreibern.

Vernünftig ist es auch, dass die neue saarländische Landesregierung das umstrittene Landespressegesetz, die "Lex Lafontaine", aufheben will. Dieses Gesetz verbot redaktionelle Anmerkungen zu - selbst nachweislich inhaltlich falschen - Gegendarstellungen. Es hat die journalistische Arbeit erschwert, aber nicht um ein Jota zur Wahrheitsfindung beigetragen. Wenigstens diese Episode ist jetzt beendet. Freilich: Der letzte Irrweg wird das nicht gewesen sein. Freiheit und Unabhängigkeit der Presse müssen täglich verteidigt werden. Auch in einer Demokratie gibt es immer wieder Versuche, in die freie journalistische Arbeit einzugreifen beziehungsweise hineinzuregieren.

So sieht ein im Juli bekannt gewordener Referentenentwurf aus dem Bundesinnenministerium vor, das sogenannte Medienprivileg im Bundesdatenschutzgesetz zu novellieren. Bisher war es so, dass die journalistische beziehungsweise redaktionelle Verbreitung personenbezogener Daten nicht der Kontrolle eines Datenschutzbeauftragten unterlag. Das war gut so. Denn die Recherche, auch was Personen angeht, ist Voraussetzung einer jeden freien Berichterstattung. Dazu gehört selbstverständlich auch das Sammeln, Sichten, Bewerten, Aufbewahren und Auswählen personenbezogener Daten. Darüber herrschte bisher Konsens. Jetzt, da eine vom Brüsseler Ministerrat verabschiedete Datenschutzrichtlinie in nationales Recht umgesetzt werden soll, wird diese Übereinstimmung offenbar aufgekündigt. Und damit begibt man sich auf juristisches und medienpolitisches Glatteis. Es sieht so aus, als solle der Presse eine Zwangsjacke verpasst werden. Wir sagen es klipp und klar: Die Unterwerfung der journalistisch/redaktionellen Verarbeitung personenbezogener Daten unter eine Kontrolle durch den Datenschutzbeauftragten ist mit dem Grundrecht der freien Presse, wie es in Artikel 5 Absatz 1 Satz 2 Grundgesetz normiert ist, unvereinbar.

Es ist ja gerade das Wesen einer freien Presse, dass sie sich unabhängig von fremden, vor allem staatlichen Einflüssen entfalten kann. Aus gutem Grund ist schon eine "Kontrolle" durch Gremien wie den Betriebsrat ein fremder Einfluss auf das redaktionelle Produkt. Umso mehr gilt das für das Ansinnen des Staates, einzugreifen. Und das ist ein gefährlicher Eingriff, wenn künftig der Datenschutzbeauftragte an der Auswahl und Verbreitung von personenbezogenen Daten mitwirken sollte und wenn die Presse einem präventiven datenschutzrechtlichen Auskunfts- und Berichtigungsanspruch unterworfen werden sollte. Ich kann nur vor solchen massiven Eingriffen warnen.

Wo beginnt hier staatliche Kontrolle, wo hört sie auf? Wenn erst einmal die Dämme brechen, wenn der Reglementierungsfreudigkeit nicht Einhalt geboten wird, sieht es schlecht aus für die Freiheit der Berichterstattung. Dann hätten wir eines Tages, was in den vergangenen Jahren mit Erfolg und im Konsens der demokratischen Parteien abgewehrt wurde: staatliche Aufsichtsinstanzen für die privatwirtschaftlichen Medien.

Ich appelliere an die Bundesregierung: Lassen Sie es nicht zu, dass die freie Presse an eine wie auch immer geartete staatliche Leine gelegt wird! Die Selbstkontrolle der Presse durch den Deutschen Presserat, auch im Hinblick auf das Problem personenbezogener Daten, ist die einer freiheitlichen Ordnung adäquate Form der - ich benutze das Wort ungern - Pressekontrolle. Sie hat sich bewährt, und sie hat Vorbildcharakter. Dabei sollte es bleiben.

Auch an diesem Punkt begegnet uns - ich kann es nicht anders sagen - eine auffallende Widersprüchlichkeit der Politik der Bundesregierung. In der Vereinbarung der Koalitionsparteien SPD und Bündnis 90/Die Grünen ist das Ziel festgelegt, das Zeugnisverweigerungsrecht der Journalisten zu stärken. Die Bundesministerin der Justiz hat dafür auch schon Vorarbeiten geleistet. Wir begrüßen diese Absichten, haben wir doch seit Jahr und Tag auf ein verbessertes Zeugnisverweigerungsrecht gedrungen. Aber wie will man glaubwürdig eine solche Verbesserung erreichen, wenn man gleichzeitig per Gesetz die Freiheits- und Unabhängigkeitsgewährleistung des Grundgesetzartikels 5 tangiert? Auf der einen Seite verspricht man zu geben, auf der anderen Seite nimmt man der Presse etwas weg. Das dient ebenfalls nicht der Klarheit und der Vertrauensbildung.

Die deutschen Zeitungsverleger haben der Bundesregierung in allem Freimut und in der Freiheit, die ihr Medium auszeichnet, die Erwartungen an die Politik im Allgemeinen und an die von ihnen geführte Bundesregierung im Besonderen vorgetragen. Es geht nicht um die partikularen Interessen einer Branche. Es geht um das Recht der Bürger, sich auch in Zukunft aus einer von staatlichen und gesellschaftlichen Einflüssen freien Presse ungehindert informieren zu können. Für dieses Bürgerrecht gilt es zu kämpfen - gemeinsam.

Nach oben

Speech to Bundesverband Deutscher Zeitungsverleger Bob Phillis: Chief Executive, Guardian Media Group.

" New Strategies for Changing Markets"

 

Es gilt das gesprochene Wort! 

Firstly, thank you for inviting me to join this panel today - I am delighted to be able to meet and share ideas with leaders and managers in newspaper businesses throughout the world, and we could not be meeting at a more significant time. No doubt our predecessors, meeting one hundred years ago, would have expressed the same sentiments. The scene in 1899 would have been one of fast-developing international trade, the world shrinking as the commercial seaways were expanded. And newspaper organisations would have felt confident too. Wireless was in its infancy -the telephone was limited to the few.

Indeed, I recall the celebrated prediction of the British Post Office executive who dismissed the telephone as an unimportant development because, he said, "we have a very good system of messenger boys".

The last decade of this century has produced enough communications developments to make any future predictions unwise, although what is becoming clear is that the power in the communications relationship is increasingly transferring to the consumer. We are seeing it in television - and digital technology will accelerate that change even more - we will see it in radio as well, it will be accentuated by the remarkable revolution which is taking place through the Internet, through the new generations of mobile telephony and all of the by-products of computer developments. The consumer will have more choices than ever before in the 21st Century and more opportunities to exercise those choices. It is a dramatic change which will affect every form of established communication: newspapers, of course, are not immune! Just how quickly things are changing can be judged by a report carried recently by the International Herald Tribune about the technology called Bluetooth.

Bluetooth enables high-speed communications to take place between devices that are within ten metres of each other. As the Report explained, the signal could move from an electronic organiser in your pocket, shifting a phone number to the cell phone in your briefcase and initiating a phone call. Or it could enable you to take a picture on a ski-lift, empower the digital camera to send the image to the cell phone in your pocket, which would send the picture as an e-mail attachment to your family at home, all in the same moment.

It is against this background that we should be considering new strategies for our changing markets and nowhere more so than in the newspaper industry. The Guardian has undergone revolutionary change since its inception in 1821 and, together with the Observer forms the backbone of the National Newspaper Division of the Guardian Media Group - a multi-media organisation with interests in national, regional and local newspapers , the Internet, magazines, television and radio and has net assets of £235 million. The Group is owned by a unique institution, The Scott Trust, whose role is to safeguard the editorial independence of The Guardian. As such The Guardian has the dual benefit of having no single proprietor and no external shareholders to satisfy whilst enjoying the financial security provided by membership of a diverse and highly profitable Media Group.

The UK newspaper market differs from that of the US and much of the rest of Europe in that national rather than regional daily newspapers are the dominant force. The Guardian competes with 10 other daily titles - all of which are available at the same 66,000 newspaper sales outlets, at the same time, every day.

Although there are many obvious differences between the industry environment in the UK and Germany, there are also obvious similarities. I hope that some of the editorial and marketing strategies introduced at The Guardian will be of interest and relevance to you.

I recently read in the trade publication " Media and Marketing Europe" that German media owners occupied four out of the top five places in Forbes list of Global Media Moguls. This suggested to me that we outsiders had little to tell you about running successful media companies and that I had better be the one listening today!

However, a second article in the same magazine painted a rather different picture. It began with the words "The peace of the German national daily newspaper market is about to be shattered by the arrival of a hefty, salmon pink competitor." This article, referring to the imminent launch of the German version of The Financial Times, described the German newspaper market as sleepy and stagnant, unused to competition and populated by publishers " reclining comfortably on the support of their local constituencies".

Some of you may be surprised by, if not incensed by this description and by the suggestion that a foreign newspaper company will simply be able to walk away with your readers and advertisers.

Even so, the probability is that the arrival of a vigorous and ambitious competitor, in any industry, creates both the need and the opportunity for change. A competitive threat, harnessed properly and positively, can be a real catalyst for change. It can cause you to reappraise everything you do - from the physical appearance of your newspaper, the image of your brand, the content you generate, to the way in which you sell and manage your business.

This has been our own experience at the Guardian. Our ability to survive the mid 1990's price war in the UK arose directly from the decisions we took following the successful launch of a new competitor, The Independent, six years before the price war started.

Before the launch of The Independent, The Guardian had enjoyed a decade of rapid circulation and revenue growth. This aura of success was almost our undoing, masking as it did some serious underlying problems, which were only exposed by the arrival of the new competitor. The 1986 Guardian was a black and white, single section broadsheet, densely packed with words, light on pictures, and running to a maximum 28 pages. The Guardian, the only left of centre broadsheet of the time, had the monopoly of critical comment on the government, at that time led, if not dominated by Margaret Thatcher. The mood of the paper was serious intense and critical but with no real balance of light and shade. We thought that was what our readers wanted.

But we made the early mistake of not recognising the nature of the competitive threat. We believed that because the Independent had been founded by journalists from the right- of -centre press that it would not appeal to our left- of- centre readers. We underestimated the appeal of the " Independent" brand proposition which promised readers a more balanced, rounded and less pessimistic view of the world. We failed to recognise that our readers might care deeply about third world debt but that they also wanted to dress up, go out and spend outrageous sums of money on Armani suits. We also seriously underestimated the visual and physical appeal of a newspaper which was strong on photography and which had a cleaner and lighter design.

 

Within a year of its launch in September 1986 The Independent's circulation had grown from 0 to 360,000 - while The Guardian's circulation had declined from 500,000 to 460,000.. and was still falling.

In February 1988 The Guardian responded with a revolutionary new design- including a new masthead, which has since become a design classic much imitated around the world. This strong and clear visual signal of change contributed directly to the rebirth of the Guardian brand. It enabled us to run simple and highly effective marketing campaigns, which gained immediate brand recognition. However this was only part of the story.

As part of the redesign The Guardian was split into two sections to create breathing room for editorial and also critically, for advertising. The Guardian had been building recruitment marketplaces from the late 1970's onwards, but our ability to develop these properly had been constrained by the pagination limits of the former paper. Now, with a dedicated second section which mixed sector specific editorial and advertising together we were able to develop real communities of interest in the areas of core strength for The Guardian - Media, Education and the Public sector. This enabled The Guardian to capture market leadership in recruitment advertising - The Guardian currently carries 50% of all recruitment advertising in the UK national press. We believe that the ownership of these communities of interest plus our market leadership position in recruitment will continue to be vitally important assets in the new media age.

Another important element in the strategy was the recognition of the importance of lighter, more humorous lifestyle and consumer oriented content in the mix. While this change of tone was obvious throughout the redesigned Guardian, much of the content was more appropriate to a magazine rather than newspaper format. Happily the recognition that newspapers could benefit from carrying magazines as part of their package, coincided with the development of new and cheaper colour printing methods. A new genre of weekend magazines and weekend newspapers was born. Less glossy that the Sunday gravure magazines but more colourful and consumer friendly than newspapers, these new style magazines turned Saturday into the best sales day of the week. To this day we sell 25% more copies on a Saturday than we sell Monday to Friday -even though the cover price is higher, 70p on Saturday, 45p Monday to Friday.

Lastly, The Guardian did not put the redesign in place and then stop changing. In fact our process of product development has been constant ever since. Between 1988 and today we have launched 19 new sections and redesigned existing sections many times over. Here is an example of the current Thursday edition, by way of illustration.

This process of constant and continuous innovation has been fundamental to our success.

While not every section will achieve the circulation or ad revenue success in its business plan, it is important to take some risks. In a completely risk averse culture The Guardian would never have launched The Guide - a product whose business plan looked far from promising, but which turned out to be that rare and important thing - a true source of competitive advantage for The Guardian.

For those of you who are not aware of the Guide - it is a pocket sized listings magazine published free with the Guardian on Saturday in five regional editions. Its objective is to give Guardian readers a definitive entertainment reference for the week ahead whether they are going out or staying at home. It is both comprehensive (with full seven day TV, radio, cinema, theatre, concert, exhibition and club listings ) and selective in that each section has critics choices and recommendations.

The original and best, although much imitated, listings magazine, The Guide brought us a new raft of elusive young metropolitan readers - younger and hipper. These readers may only buy a newspaper once a week but The Guide contributes directly to making that one newspaper purchase the Saturday Guardian.

The Guide was launched in the London region in September 1993 - the very month in which Rupert Murdoch began the price war. The cover price of the Times was cut by more than 50% on a national and long term basis. We had one of two choices - either we cut the price on The Guardian and competed on a level playing field or we stayed firm behind our product differentiation strategy. It was a far from easy decision. Although the cost of joining the price war would have been enormous, money was not the primary issue. The Guardian is supported by revenues from the wider and highly profitable Guardian Media Group and a policy decision was made that the finance would be made available for this strategy. More crucially, we had developed a confidence in the newspaper and the brand, which made us believe that our readers would not desert us now hat we had developed a newspaper which was worth a premium price.

Had we not made the wide ranging changes to the look, the image, the content and the package of The Guardian following The Independent's launch we would not have been able to protect our position through this period of intense price based competition. Because we had established a clear competitive platform, invested in refreshing and updating the look and content of our newspaper, given space and recognition to the importance of advertising and because we had recognised the changing needs and interests of our readers, we entered the period of the cover price war in a confident mode. We refused to engage in an expensive battle, and maintained our cover price at 50p.

To this day we have never cut the cover price of The Guardian on a national basis. Although our current circulation of around 400,000 is some 20,000 less than before the price war started, the circulation of The Independent by contrast is now at 224,000 - some 200,000 below its early 1990's peak.

There is of course another vital element in our success - the editorial team led by an outstanding editor. The Guardian has been the UK Newspaper of the Year for the past four years. The newspaper continues to excel at its core functions. It breaks stories and makes the news. It exposes corruption and malpractice across the political and commercial spectrum and remains a thorn in the side of the establishment. The Guardian may be controversial, its views may be unpopular, but it is never dull and it can never be ignored. In a world where trust in the media is at an all time low, the trust our readers have in our newspaper and our brand is beyond price.

While gaining trust is clearly important as an ethical and philosophical goal for a newspaper we believe that this has enormous commercial implications and opportunities as well. As the supply of media alternatives explode, the importance of having a trusted brand to turn to, a brand which our readers can depend on to deliver an honest and informed opinion and which comes with a guarantee of quality and integrity is, vital.

A strong brand is an invaluable asset in this multi-media world of convergence. The brand can and should be developed and adapted across all medium. The Guardian has developed Guardian Unlimited - a network of websites produced within the umbrella Guardian Unlimited brand. The network is one of the most popular websites in the UK with 500,000 registered users and just under 10 million page impressions a month. The sites include news, jobs, film, education, football, cricket, work, archive and shopping and are a blend of content originated for the print edition and entirely new content built for the web. The sites are highly interactive and updated on a 24 hour daily basis. Editors, columnists and politicians regularly participate in online discussions with readers.

We are already planning the newspaper of the future for the Internet age in print and online. We believe that the Guardian will look very different from the one which exists today .Of course we know that it will be distributed through new channels and published on new platforms. Our antennae are out for changes in the mood, needs and readership habits of our readers, and for developments in technology which will get us there faster.

However, our use of the internet is not simply an electronic version of the newspaper. It provides background and search material. It appeals to communities of interest, be that politics, film, football etc. But we also recognise that we have to build a classified advertising business on the net that will compete with our own newspaper. But more than that, having clearly identified the various communities who are loyal to our brand we must build and exploit the opportunities of e-commerce.

But of course the competitive battle is not over - it has just begun. The strategies which took us through the 1990's, when our competitors were known and obvious, will not be appropriate for the coming decade and the new era of Internet based competition.

So as we move towards the new millennium - we will find that newspapers around the world can not rely on the continuation of their current business models. We put our content online and charge nothing for that - so what of circulation revenue in the years ahead? We will lose classified business to the Internet, so how can we guarantee that this migrates to our own online businesses and not to those of the new Net entrepreneurs? Having spent decades and millions in building up our revenue streams, do we now risk losing them or must we now reinvent ourselves, even cannibalise our existing businesses, in order to prosper in the next decade and beyond?

My own view is that as newspaper publishers we have no alternative but to put ourselves in the clear, focused and determined mindset of our new Internet competitors. We have to be one step ahead - recognise the threat of the internet to our businesses and put into place strategic developments to counteract that threat. It will mean working in many different ways but we already know things are moving apace. It has been estimated that five years from now (2004) - a total of 121 million Europeans will be online - that's 32% of all adults. The United Kingdom and Germany already have more that than 10 million internet users each.

Equally we must identify now those things we do well as a newspaper and as a business which will remain a source of competitive advantage in the new climate. Editorial excellence and a strong trusted brand are obvious examples of this.

Throughout, the Guardian has drawn strength from being part of a successful and diverse media group. Our range of national, regional and local newspapers stand alongside successful GMG Businesses ranging from television production and rights ownership to AutoTrader - the market leader in its own highly competitive field. We are involved in radio and we are committed to substantial on-line developments across the full range of our businesses.

As I mentioned at the beginning, underpinning the entire organisations is our unique ownership structure - unique in the whole pattern of British national journalism. The Scott Trust, created in 1936, still operates on the basis that its national newspapers are not run solely to make money for external shareholders or to suit the whims of a single proprietor. It does not, for example, require quality to be sacrificed in pursuit of profit. You may think that this is a receipe for commercial disaster: we have recently reported record profits and record revenues.

What we seek to prove, I believe, is that commitment to journalistic principles and quality are enduring assets, perhaps particularly in a time of change, especially when process sees to come before substance in so many current media developments.

If there is a corporate slogan at the Guardian Media Group, it would come from the words of the legendary CP Scott, who was the Guardian's Editor for 50 years. He said, memorably, in 1921: "Comment is free, but fact is sacred."

We believe you can't put a price on the truth and his message is one we carry with us every day. And it is one that everyone who cares about truth needs to keep by them as the new information age unfolds.

Nach oben

Remarks by Earl J. Wilkinson, Executive Director, INMA

Es gilt das gesprochene Wort!

 

Bundesverband Deutscher Zeitungsverleger (BDZV) Newspaper Congress

19 October 1999 Berlin, Germany

 

Eighteen months ago, in a small, cold meeting room in an American hotel, 20 publishers sat around a table and discussed the future of the newspaper business. The exercise was to take radical business situations and determine the newspaper's proper response.

One such hypothetical situation had a newspaper putting all resources into increasing print circulation - only to find that the highest efforts could not reverse a steady decline over time.

What ensued from this situation analysis was the most striking business conversation I had ever witnessed.

A 52-year-old publisher, the chief executive officer of a 50,000-circulation regional daily newspaper, admitted that this "hypothetical" situation was already the case at his company. And his job during the next 10 years was to keep profit margins high while managing the steady decline of his newspaper's circulation base.

There was initially an odd silence. Eyes darted around the room, waiting for someone to argue the point.

When the silence was broken, several agreed with the pessimistic publisher, praising him for his honesty. Others disagreed, arguing strenuously that newspapers have not seriously marketed their products or brands - that not only are we not doing enough marketing, but we're doing the wrong kind of marketing.

The meeting ended inconclusively.

Newspapers in the Western world have undergone a decade of identity crises. Given additional options, reader and advertiser markets have diffused, pinching profit margins - but, more importantly, pinching our significance within our communities.

But I'm here to tell you that newspaper-centered information companies are on the verge of transforming local, regional, and national media markets. Why? Because chief executives have begun a process of immersing their companies fully into marketing and multi-media cultures. And once you've crossed that cultural barrier, the possibilities are endless.

My goal this morning is to take you on a brief journey into a world that is being created for us even as we speak - a world of multi-media companies with the local newspaper at the center of the wheel, a world in which marketing is the dominant culture within our companies, a world in which branding is the preferred method of marketing, and a world in which management imperatives are changing quickly. I want to share with you the blunt, honest, and sometimes critical assessments of newspaper executives with whom I have met worldwide, as well as their unbridled optimism and sense of commitment to the future of newspapering. I hope our journey together sparks some ideas.

Market Overview: General Trends

To understand where we are going as an industry, we must understand where we are today and how we got here.

The combination of information choices, middle-class wealth, and lifestyle changes has produced a poverty of time for consumers, moving the proposition in product development from value for money to value for time. As a result, the core product our companies produce - the print newspaper - is undergoing incremental circulation losses which is translating into a recession of presence. In eight of the industrialised nations, all have seen the percentage of the population buying newspapers decrease slightly since 1992. As newspapers shift from a mandatory product necessary for survival to an optional leisure product, newspaper sales are becoming more susceptible to economic conditions. Our response as newspaper companies and as an industry has been more discounts, more games, and more giveaways, especially prevalent in Anglo and Asian democracies.

Choice in advertising medium, meanwhile, is transforming the marketing landscape into one in which return on investment rules. From an advertising perspective, volume grows while shares shift among television, newspapers, and magazines. Fragmentation of television channels is creating new demand for advertising at the marginal expense of newspaper advertising share. In most markets, fragmentation of magazine publishing has failed to increase that industry's share of advertising. Liberal privacy laws have put direct mail as the dominant advertising medium in the United States. In general, advertising investment has become a function of gross domestic product, growing as economies grow, shrinking as economies shrink. Locally, and in partnership with other newspapers and press associations, we are fighting harder than ever to grow share.

As a financial asset, I can report that while profit margins are under greater pressure than ever, profit margins are higher. Newspapers are doing more with less, at the expense of service and at the expense of any major initiative to reverse share trends in advertising and circulation. The strategic focus in capital expenditures continues to be more of what we have always done, which is incremental annual improvements in mass customisation of print products. In general, the stock markets are lukewarm to generally pleased.

Our importance as an industry is unquestioned. But the trend-lines are disturbing. And it is the trend-lines on which we must focus together.

The Internet's Impact

For while I have just provided a snapshot of the past decade, we have not yet been able to document the impact of the Internet on newspapers. Let me comment on this briefly.

Since the 1930s, our industry's first reaction to consumer and advertiser threats has been to defend the print franchise and minimise losses. And, today, as we begin to see evidence of fringe erosion of readership and classified advertising revenue in Internet- and youth-friendly metropolitan markets, many in the newspaper industry have reached for that same response. This may be acceptable public policy, but it is an unacceptable business strategy if we are to grow market share.

On the other extreme of viewpoints in terms of the impact of the Internet and digitisation are Internet-focused research companies and academics who see the next five years as a period of rapid change in media dynamics, with print newspapers facing an especially difficult burden as computer and Internet penetrations rise. Their projections indicate print newspapers will be eaten away, feature by feature - classifieds, sports scores, headline news, calendars, movie reviews, weather, stock quotes, television listings … any item whose value is searchable or is easily accessible on a portable basis. Obviously, the short-term concern is about revenue categories, which many newspapers are pro-actively seeking to defend.

But there are two greater concerns for newspaper publishers that are receiving less publicity. First, advertising decision-makers tell Forrester Research that as technology advances, their marketing decision-making will be based less on cost-per-thousand and more on a pure performance. Second, as capital valuations of "new media" companies grow and consolidations of international media and retail companies persist, these potential newspaper rivals are discovering a glass floor at the grassroots level of information dissemination - and these international players desperately need "local" content and relationships to fulfill their missions. Below the glass floor are the powerful brands of regional newspapers - making many of us targets of national competitors, or targets of purchase by non-traditional companies.

I give you this background to say that there probably is a happy medium between "defend and minimise" and this radical digital future. But there is no doubt: Our value proposition is not print, but content. Many outside the newspaper industry are looking in, and believe we are too old-line and too hard-line to change.

I think they're wrong.

You Say You Want a Revolution?

The good news is that we are already seeing the genesis of our industry's market share initiative. In fact, the turnaround started sometime in the past 12 months when a majority of newspaper publishers in the Western world crossed an important cultural line: The realisation that the Internet would be more friend than foe.

For instead of a focus on publishing a single printed newspaper, the Internet is spawning a broader focus on content, which is feeding the need for multi-media distribution, which is impacting our product portfolio, which is changing the marketing and management focus from products to brands. This is a revolution. One idea begets another, which begets another, which begets another:

This revolution is about who can produce original thought.

This revolution is forcing newspapers to declare which nuance of multi-media provider they are. One focused on news, one on information, or one on entertainment?

This revolution is about the strategic decision to organise operations horizontally or vertically. Horizontally, this is about unrelated businesses in one location, such as national and metropolitan dailies in Latin America distributing CDs, pamphlets, and consumer products through a bundled newspaper or in a newsstand network owned by the company. Vertically, it is about multiple information products and services linked in a chain that adds value at every link - a more common strategy among innovative newspapers in Europe and North America.

This revolution is about publishing once, and distributing it many ways. The financial newspapers in Europe and North America are leading the way, but so are general interest companies such as The New York Times and The Orlando Sentinel in the United States and The Daily Telegraph in England. Stories filed tomorrow will require a written summary, a written comprehensive report, photographs, audio reports, and video reports. Newspapers will become local versions of today's international wire services and 24-hour news operations.

This revolution is about diversifying a company's product portfolio, targeting and dominating market niches. This is a departure from our mass-market, one-size-fits-all past. But this is where the competitive environment for consumers and advertisers is taking us. Multiple print products, multiple e-mail products, multiple web products … all feeding the other.

This revolution is forcing newspapers to acknowledge cannibalisation as an acceptable business practice. It is better we eat ourselves than someone else eat us. The strategic question on cannibalisation is whether it is more cost-effective to allow this process to develop in an integrated multi-media environment, or whether the newspaper culture is too print-oriented. Some are now suggesting that it may be best to set up a separate company with a separate mandate and allow two entities to compete head-on.

This revolution is about choice and personalisation. Internet companies today, as well as certain newspaper companies, are merging the idea of database marketing with the idea of customers using the web to pick and choose which newspaper-branded products they want, when they want it, and in what format they want it. Customers are interacting directly with the newspaper's database.

This revolution is bringing about a media convergence borne today of necessity, fed tomorrow by consumer demand. For digitisation of distribution channels will bring together to one device an expanded array of television channels, on-demand video and audio, digital text delivery seen only on today's Internet, combined in a way that allows for consumer multi-tasking beyond which we cannot begin to describe today. This future is outlined in the strategic approach by John Fairfax Ltd. in Australia, whose chief executive sees the Internet as an enabling, short-term medium that will pave the way for digital communications.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a cultural revolution. And we should be honoured to be a part of it.

From Products to Brands

This revolution will impact many aspects of how we do business. Marketing is, perhaps, the most important.

I hope we learn lessons from the past. For when our company produced only a single newspaper, we in the Western world generally did a bad job of acting like market leaders. Gone are the days in which we build it, and they will come. Gone are the days that we can afford not to connect with readers and advertisers.

In a fragmenting market, especially one in which there will be multiple products under a single name, the value of your brand - that bundle of images that comes to mind when Frankfurter Allgemeine or Berliner Zeitung are mentioned - becomes the pre-eminent goal in marketing strategy. And marketing energy level - creatively and in the budget process - is vital.

We all know, for example, that product satisfaction is not exclusively about the news stories, the headlines, and the editorials - it is all of that, combined with the bundle of benefits ranging from whether the newspaper is delivered on time to whether interaction with a newspaper employee is courteous and responsive. But research shows there is an entire range of emotional attributes tied to the newspaper that need our attention and nurturing. Are we a fun newspaper? Are we a serious newspaper? Does the newspaper make me feel good? Am I more confident as a result of the newspaper? Am I smarter? Am I quicker?

This style of marketing de-emphasises the immediate purchase. Instead of describing products, it communicates in metaphors. It is indirect. It is clever. Good brand marketing makes sales - especially in a multi-product company - more effective.

How important is nurturing and feeding this entire range of needs? A Harvard University study recently pointed to the fact that 67 percent of customers who switch brands are "generally satisfied" with the brand they just left. In contrast, many newspapers have long focused on striving for a level of product and service quality designed not to lose the majority of customers. It is clear that newspapers must re-direct efforts toward "total quality" and "total satisfaction" - along with a level and style of marketing that matches.

But brand marketing has turned out to be the easy part - that is an issue of core values, creative re-direction, and increased budgets. What few have figured out is what to do with a high brand value. And while major publishers stop to ponder this question, few are actually extending and managing their core brand. Instead, they are merely managing seemingly unrelated assets.

The answer is to do something with your brand. Launch a series of niche and leisure publications as Newsday is doing on Long Island. Launch multiple web sites related to football, young people, and entertainment, as Clarín in Argentina and the Los Angeles Times in the United States are doing. But let's not sit on these valuable brands another day; use the impetus of the Internet and branding to move vigorously into new markets. Use today's profit margins to fund experimental ventures.

Culture and the Chief Executive

I would like to conclude this presentation with an observation on the newspaper culture, and a personal appeal to the publishers in the audience this morning.

At every newspaper company that I have visited, the conflicting cultures within newspapers remain the biggest impediment to reacting to market challenges. The journalistic culture emphasises big stories and big awards over community reporting. The production culture encourages large capital expenditures at the expense of labour-saving hardware and software. The promotions culture emphasises games as part of the reading experience. The newspaper culture treats ink-on-paper as sacrosanct. And the management culture encourages accounting over evangelising.

To compete in the new marketplace, chief executives must transform these peculiar cultures within newspapers into a common culture that emphasises marketing and multi-media.

My question to you today is: Are you doing everything you can? Are you and your management team focused on the future or the past … brands or products … ink-on-paper or multi-media? Are you focusing on leadership and evangelising? Are you breaking through the cultural walls of the newspaper industry? Is a comfort level with change a value that you project? Are you investing in recruiting the best employees, keeping the best employees, and training the best employees? Is total quality your goal? Are you maximising marketing?

If the answer to any of these questions is "no," then the next few years likely will mean an acceleration of the trends outlined earlier in this presentation.

Change. Culture. Brands. Total quality. Multi-media. Marketing.

With these qualities as our hallmark, I have every confidence that newspaper-centered information companies - newspapers - have a long, prominent, and profitable future. I hope you do, too. Thank you.

 

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Earl J. Wilkinson is executive director of the International Newspaper Marketing Association (INMA), a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting advanced marketing principles within the newspaper industry. INMA (www.inma.org) has 1,100 members in 61 countries worldwide.