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Austria's Wiener Zeitung goes to print 1 last time

June 30, 2023

The Wiener Zeitung's final front page told of 116,840 days, 320 years, 12 Austrian presidents, 10 Kaisers, two republics and one newspaper. It plans to continue online and with a monthly print edition.

The front page of the Wiener Zeitung newspaper
After 320 years, the Vienna-based newspaper is discontinuing its daily print editionImage: Matthias Röder/dpa/picture alliance

Austria's Wiener Zeitung hit the newsstands one last time as a daily paper in the capital, Vienna, and elsewhere on Friday. 

The paper, founded in 1703, had been in print daily ever since and is one of the oldest left in the world. 

"116,840 days, 3,839 months, 320 years, 12 presidents, 10 Kaisers, 2 republics, 1 newspaper," Friday's front page read in simple large black text. 

It was reminiscent of the April 27 edition on learning the news that the paper's run would be coming to an end, when the years 1703 and 2023 dominated the cover. 

Archive image: A woman reads the April 27, 2023, front page of the Wiener Zeitung newspaper, with the years 1703 and 2023 written in large type black taking up roughly half of the page.
The newspaper learned in April that its more than three-century daily print publication era would be coming to an endImage: Helmut Fohringer/APA/picturedesk/picture alliance

In its final edition, the paper interviewed Austrian bodybuilding, cinematic and political trailblazer Arnold Schwarzenegger, promoting his new biography and Netflix partnership, lamenting that unlike the "Terminator" character, the paper could not claim "I'll be back." 

What is the Wiener Zeitung?

First published under the name Wiennerisches Diarium (Viennese Diary), the paper said in its first edition on August 8, 1703, that it planned to provide a sober account of the news "without any oratory or poetic gloss." 

The deputy editors in chief, Judith Belfkih and Thomas Seifert, on Friday published an editorial leaning on the paper's reputation for serious analysis of topics of import, and said it would be a loss for Austria's daily media landscape. 

"These are stormy times for quality journalism," the editorial began. "On more and more platforms, serious content vies for attention with fake news, cat videos and conspiracy theories."

Is it the world's oldest newspaper?

That depends partly how you define the title, for instance whether it still needs to be in print on a daily basis or whether it should still be printed in its original city. 

The newspaper described itself as the world's longest-running daily newspaper still in print, although several other European publications might seek to lay claim either to that exact accolade or a similar one, including but not limited to the Gazzetta di Mantova (launched in 1664) in northern Italy, which has admittedly relocated from Mantua to Milan in recent years.

But by the Wiener Zeitung's reckoning, the Hildesheimer Allgemeine Zeitung (founded in 1705) in the German state of Lower Saxony now takes over the mantle, a claim that certainly seems uncontroversial among German-language newspapers.

Why is it downsizing? 

The Wiener Zeitung is editorially independent but owned by the Austrian government. Its print circulation is solid but modest, roughly 20,000 on weekdays and about double that at the weekends. 

It suffered a sharp decrease in revenue when a recent law change dropped a requirement for companies to pay to publish changes to the commercial registry in the print edition. This role as an official gazette had become its main source of revenue, but it was moved to an online state-run registry, with Austria's government saying it was necessary to meet EU standards about providing public information online. 

This change ultimately forced the paper to cut 63 jobs in all, reducing its journalistic staff from 55 to 20 people. 

Belfkih and Seifert lamented a missed "chance of the century" on the part of the Austrian government to find a new "financing model tied to quality criteria" that could have provided sustainable insurance both for it and for the under-pressure state broadcaster ORF. 

Nevertheless, the piece's headline and conclusion alluded to the German and English saying that "hope dies last," rhetorically asking whether "a new government will again/still/nevertheless grab this chance." 

What comes next? 

The newspaper is not dissolving entirely. It will remain available online, and is planning a monthly print edition, albeit with details yet to be set in stone. 

msh/nm (AFP, AP, dpa)