US publisher Condé Nast has announced that it is to cease production of Vanity Fair in Germany. The publishers have blamed the economic crisis, but did the lack of German celebrities also play a role?
Not even Barack Obama on the cover could save Vanity Fair
"If success is rare and slow, everybody knows how quick and easy ruin is," wrote William Makepeace Thackeray in his 1848 novel Vanity Fair -- a fair epitaph for the German version of the magazine of the same name.
The last issue of the German edition of the US glossy, whose circulation had plummeted from a half million to less than 200,000 per week, appears on Thursday, Feb. 19.
"We did everything we could," Jonathan Newhouse -- the CEO of Vanity Fair publisher Condé Nast -- told the German online magazine HORIZONT.NET. "We bought in talented people, invested in content and advertising, and committed a significant amount of time, money and energy. But in the end we failed."
Newhouse cited the global economic slowdown as the main reason for discontinuing the magazine.
The "new magazine for Germany" never attracted that many readers
"In normal economic circumstances, we would have pressed on, but that's not possible the way things are now," Newhouse said.
As recently as last December, Newhouse had promised the magazine would be able to weather the financial crisis.
But Vanity Fair's demise also reflects the fact that the traditionally conservative German magazine-reading public never really took to the flashy, celebrity- and photography-oriented format the publisher was trying to import from the United States.
"Heroes, sex bombs and revolutionaries"
The German edition of Vanity Fair was launched with a massive blitz of publicity in February 2007 and featured a mix of pop and politics, gossip and art.
Celebrity culture is different in the US and in Germany
The magazine was supposed to be a voice of a newer, more cosmopolitan Germany, its editor-in-chief at the time Ulf Poschardt said.
"Heroes, geniuses, sex bombs and revolutionaries have their new stage," said Poschardt, whose tenure at the publication only lasted until January 2008.
But German celebrities such as actor Til Schweiger, who graced the first cover of the German edition, or Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit proved to have considerably less star appeal than the VIPs who regularly feature on the pages of the US or British editions.
That -- combined with the across-the-board decline in the publishing industry -- doomed the magazine to failure after only two years.
It is unclear whether the 80-odd Vanity Fair employees, who are based in Berlin, will be able to switch to other Condé Nast titles, such as Glamour, Myself or GQ Style, or whether they'll need to look for new jobs.