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Business

Germany's Newspapers Bleeding Red Ink

The German publishing branch is going through one of the worst crises in its history. Plummeting ad revenue is hitting even the big papers hard and ensuring more than a few journalists will be on the job hunt soon.

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How many of them will still be around next year?

Headhunters will have their hands full in the coming months.

Hundreds of journalists and newspaper workers will be pounding the pavement, résumés in hand, in the aftermath of one of the worst media crises in Germany’s postwar history.

The teetering world economy that finally plunged following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States has taken with it billions in advertising money.

The acute absence of the very money flow that provides more than two-thirds of a newspapers’ yearly income has resulted in slashed jobs and the closure of special editions.

Big publications take hard hits

The respected national daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) will print the last edition of its daily English edition on Friday and turn it into a weekly. The edition, a cooperation with the Paris-based International Herald Tribune, went under because of the major advertising losses suffered by the FAZ.

Friday will also be the last day for the special Berlin edition of the FAZ, which won critical acclaim with its original layout and fresh voice. The FAZ is also planning to slash more than 100 jobs in the coming months.

"We can’t assume that this will change any time soon," Jochen Becker told the Financial Times Deutschland. "That’s why we have to get used to the fact that income will sink for a long time."

The economic downturn has hit the FAZ especially hard. As a result of steadily sinking subscription rolls, the paper has relied heavily on its massive weekend job advertising section and daily ad space for much-needed revenue.

No one safe

But in the last month at least, it seems no one is safe. The national business daily Handelsblatt, partly owned by the Wall Street Journal, expects job cuts in the hundreds, as does the venerable Süddeutsche Zeitung, based in Munich.

It’s gotten so bad that marketing agencies have simply written this year off.

"We’re estimating that it will turn around at the earliest in the middle of the coming year," Nicole Prüsse of More Media, told the FAZ.

The meager times will most likely drastically change Germany’s media landscape in the coming years. Consolidation looks to be the name of the game. A recent merger between the local Berliner Morgenpost daily and the national conservative daily, Die Welt, will most likely serve as a model, wrote Dieter Holte, the former head of Germany’s ZDF television station.

Taking advantage

The bad times are providing opportunity for some. The Georg von Holtzbruck Publishing group has used the desperate market to add to its growing newspaper empire.

The group announced on Thursday that it was purchasing the Berliner Zeitung, one of the capital city’s largest newspapers. The group already owns the other city’s other major daily, the Tagesspiegel, as well as the weekly Die Zeit and the Handelsblatt.

The price was a bargain-basement 250 million euro ($24.6 million), roughly half what the Zeitung’s owner Gruner + Jahr had been asking for it.