An Austrian Surprise for Europe's Magazine Industry

By Hendrikse, Dick | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, October 1986 | Go to article overview

An Austrian Surprise for Europe's Magazine Industry


Hendrikse, Dick, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


An Austrian surprise for Europe's magazine industry

For most Europeans, Austria is a riddle without answers. It gave us the wienerwaltz, lederhosen and the sacher torte--and at the same time, Adolf Hitler, Eichmann and, recently, the Waldheim surprise. And don't forget Amadeus, Freud and Henry Anatole Grunwald.

It is Grunwald's legacy that is currently turning Austria into a publishing phenomenon. A country with a little over two million households, Austria has Kronen Zeitung, a daily tabloid with a print run nearing one million; a weekly Enquirer-type tabloid called Die Ganze Woche--reaching, nine months after its introduction, 40 percent of the nation; the business monthly Trend, which--with 60,000 copies sold in such a small country-- could be called the largest of its kind in the world.

And . . . they have the Wiener--a monthly that could easily become the most influential magazine of the eighties in Europe.

Let me give you the bare essentials first: Wiener sold 118,000 copies a month in 1985, had 500 pages of advertising, and made enough money to start two new monthlies in 1986. Now my personal impression: It is the most exciting magazine I've seen for years; it's inspiring; it's in a way disgusting; it's provocative; it could be a publisher's nightmare and is democracy's enigma. But Wiener will leave its mark on European publishing in this scond half of the decade.

The magazine started rather inconspicuously in November 1979 when three young journalists decided that Vienna needed a city magazine modeled after Felker's brainchild. After three issues they went broke, and the title--the Wiener, of course--was bought by Hans Schmid, a co-owner of Austria's leading ad agency, GGK.

Schmid felt that Austria needed a magazine that would reflect the "Zeitgeist' of the eighties--a magazine that would attract young, affluent, undogmatic, permissive young males (could we call them Yuppies?).

Don't ask me what "Zeitgeist' is. It's best described as the spirit of the times, which, according to Bob Dylan, have been a'changin'. To the young Austrians, Zeitgeist means a definitive break with the past, with the "Kadaverdisziplin' towards Herr Hofregierungstrat, who served der Kaiser, der Fuhrer, the American five star General, Jewish postwar prime minister Kreisky, and always--without interruption --der Kardinal.

It must have taken a lot of personal courage for owner Schmid, publishers Lonyay and Luger, and editors Peichl and Hopp to translate that feeling into what we not know as the Wiener.

Editorially, the magazine is based on superior quality investigative journalism and an involvement in culture and the arts that resembles the eager awareness of the young Berlin establishment in the twenties--the group that gave us, after Dada and other avant-garde explosions, some of this century's greatest authors, artists and composers.

Imitating a good thing

It stands to reason that, because Wiener is written in German, its success was spotted first in other German-speaking countries. In Germany, leading publisher Gruner Jahr (Stern, Brigitte and Geo) began their project Fritz some years ago, but decided, after one or more test issues, that Zeitgeist was not an ingredient that could thrive in the mature culture of this big Hamburg publishing house.

In March 1985, a Zurich publisher of a leading daily newspaper and some magazines launched the Swiss version of the Wiener. Although the first two issues were quite shocking-- and therefore sellouts--Magma has not repeated the success of its Austrian example. With a print run of 40,000 a month, Magma is waiting for the tide to turn. In my opinion, Magma is overdoing it both in editorial provocation and experimental design. I'll come back to that later, but design and graphic innovations are aspects just as important to the success and influence of Wiener as the journalistic formula. …

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