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Germany

Online Newspaper Goes to the Dogs

Despite not carrying scandalous stories of famous illegitimate pups, Germany's online "dog's newspaper" has proven to be a surprising and informative Internet hit.

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Benji's owner got grooming tips from the online dog newspaper -- much to his obvious displeasure.

Ever wondered what Queen Elizabeth's corgis get up to behind the closed doors of Buckingham Palace? Or what Lassie is doing these days after slipping from the Hollywood limelight? Well, now there's an online newspaper just for dogs which covers everything the pooch on the street wants to know about.

Except the virtual and free "dog's newspaper" is more geared towards the owner rather than the scandal hungry newshound. The idea of 59-year-old German ethnologist Rainer Brinks and webmaster Richard Ebert, the Internet publication aims to inform independently and critically on all things canine but from a professional angle and for no profit.

It all started from Ebert's fear of dogs. After Brinks began helping Ebert with his phobia, the web designer slowly became more and more interested in the subject of his fear. From those nervous beginnings, together they developed a plan to present the subject of dogs on the Internet. In January 2000, the newspaper went online.

Clicks show popularity of newspaper

Hund mit Ohren Mr Jeffries

The dog - the focus of the newspaper.

The figures for the newspaper suggest that the idea was not as barking mad as it seemed. From the launch, the dog newspaper was recording around 1,000 clicks a month. Now, it's more like 80,000 clicks a day. "We serve just one reader, and that's the dog," said Brinks, the newspaper's editor-in-chief. The ethnologist explained that there had been a need for a qualitatively good newspaper on the subject, because in his opinion, there were so many mediocre efforts on the net.

The newspaper offers readers information on dog education, the relationship between humans and dogs and medicine and treatment for pups. All the stories are presented in simple language for the average dog owner to understand and to find useful.

Mixed breed of writers

The editor-in-chief and webmaster work with a team of ten writers on the site from quite different occupational areas. Some are canine experts; others are just dog owners and some biologists at universities. Some are just friends who enjoy writing about dogs.

Hund mit Sonnenschutz

People should learn to understand the dog.

"The reader expects honesty," answers Brinks when asked what the readers want from "Hundezeitung.de." He added that he does not follow fashions and rejects modern concepts like dog psychologists. Brinks is also against the practice of buying dogs with no forethought or preparation as if the dog was "an electrical appliance." He believes people should "learn to understand the animal."

Brinks and Ebert seem to have found the right tone to the newspaper. Most popular areas on the site include the counselor section and the forum where owners can help each other with tales of experience. Everything from whether the dog should sleep on a human bed to which ear drops work best from certain breeds -- all subjects are open to discussion and the answers often provide quick and efficient help to fellow readers.

The interest generated by the newspaper goes much further than just the 80,000 clicks a day, Brinks claimed. These are associated with just the general interest section of the wider subject of "the dog." Brinks revealed that mails and contributions in the discussion forum swell these numbers with more specific requests for information.

Professional links boost credibility

Bordeaux Dogge

Die Bordeaux Dogge O'Bella schaut bei einer Pressekonferenz am Donnerstag, 22. Mai 2003, in Dortmund in die Kamera. Vom 29. Mai bis zum 1. Juni 2003 treffen sich in den Dortmunder Westfalenhallen ueber 20.000 Hunde aus 55 Laendern zur Welthundeausstellung. Auf der weltweit groessten Hundesausstellung aller Zeiten des Weltverbandes FCI werden ueber 300 verschiedene Hunderassen, sowie alles rund um den Hund von Zucht bis Dressur praesentiert. Die Weltausstellung wird jedes Jahr in einem anderen Land veranstaltet und fand in Deutschland zuletzt vor 12 Jahren statt. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner) --- The Bordeaux mastiff "O`Bella" watches into the camera at a press conference on Thursday, May 22, 2003 in Dortmund, Germany. From May 29 to June 1 Dortmund hosts the Dog World Fair. More than 20,000 dogs from 55 countrys meet at the world's largest dog show, to present the latest products from breeding to training around the men's best friend. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Many veterinarians read the dog's newspaper and the editorial team provides their links on the site's pages. "Many people profit from the dog's newspaper," said Brinks. The inclusion of professional support has helped the newspaper's reputation grow quickly as a publication that provides good addresses for helpful information at the click of a mouse.

The fact that the newspaper is all about the dog and not about the profit has also helped. The complete web site is free to the user and is financed by webmaster Ebert. Brinks submits his articles as an honorary contributor with no payment involved. There are no sponsors and no adverts. "Because we are free, we have to show more credibility there. We are a pure non-profit page." Just like the dogs it serves, the paper remains faithful: independent, critical and informative.

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