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Brigitte Turns Another Page

DW staff (jen)May 6, 2004

Anyone seeking tips on how to age gracefully may want to check out Germany's top women's magazine, Brigitte. The market leader is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week.

Old, but not wrinkled: Brigitte then and now.Image: GRUNER+JAHR, BRIGITTE

Looking for an English-language equivalent to the biweekly women's magazine Brigitte? Think hybrids: a mixture of Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan with a dash of Martha Stewart Living and Ms. thrown in, and you're getting close.

Fifty years after it was first published in Berlin, Brigitte remains -- despite growing competition -- the clear market leader. The biweekly published by the media giant Gruner+Jahr sells 800,000 copies per issue, reaching some 3.3 million readers in a country which has overall female population of around 42 million.

Andreas Lebert Chefredakteur der Zeitschrift Brigitte
Andreas LebertImage: dpa

Now based in Hamburg, the magazine has a 48-year-old male at the helm. Editor-in-Chief Andreas Lebert (photo) -- whose parents both wrote for the magazine -- took over in 2002.

What is the secret of the magazine's longevity and success? Respect for what's important to its readers, according to Lebert.

Life's refrains

"Although a lot has happened in the past five decades, we all hunger for the refrains of life: children growing up, falling in love and out of love, summer fashion, the holidays," Lebert told Der Spiegel news magazine. "And Brigitte is a specialist in these refrains."

Despite the advances of women in society over the years, the magazine's formula has been to focus on "women's" topics while resisting the urge to follow the latest fad. Christin Büsing, who has worked as one of the magazine's food editors for the past year, said that the magazine's status is important in directing its editorial content.

"Brigitte is an institution. It has to stay current without chasing every trend," Büsing told Deutsche Welle.

Changing with the times

But, Lebert noted, Brigitte readers haven't been immune to the changes of the past 50 years.

"Today, 66 percent of women work, while back then it was 33 percent. Women (today) are much more independent. But I don't think you undermine the success of the women's movement if you enjoy preparing a three-course meal. You can be thrilled about a new dress and at the same time be concerned about the developments in Iraq."

Is there any contradiction to having a male at the helm of a glossy whose readership is almost exclusively female? "I'm a man but can understand women. Our magazine isn't for aliens," Lebert said.

A 50th anniversary issue will be published Saturday (May 8, 2004). On Thursday in Berlin, Brigitte will host a 50th birthday party, with a number of prominent guests in attendance.