Bonn thinks big locally

Exporting soft culture in form of news publications ain’t that easy for se Germans. But if you think local, small and in the world’s lingua franca, the Bonner General Anzeiger is hitting a spot. It makes sense to do it in Bonn with it’s numerous international institutions, not to mention the UN.

Local integration works better for newcomers if they can get their local news fix. And since many don’t speak German when they arrive or leave, the audience is definitely there. I’m sure the General Anzeiger in English will find more than 25k impressions a month.

via Meedia

Exporting Soft Culture

global-handelsblatt-title
One of the sluggish, paywall pages at Handelsblatt Global Edition.

Germans are great at exporting heavy machinery, yet lackluster at exporting soft culture in form of professional, news media publications in English.

There have been some, partly lovable attempts from German media companies, to establish and attract a global audience in English. So far, only Spiegel International can play with the big boys in term of reach and relevance. Once up and running was Berlin Worldwide in the early 2000s, but Springer pulled the plug after the numbers didn’t add up. Bild, Germany’s biggest tabloid, tried as well and pulled the same plugs after a few years – it can’t even be found in the archives.

berlinworldwide-title
A former title page of Berlin Worldwide in the Waybackmachine.

Then there’s The Local, run by Swedes, doing digital only news with a solid run. Just recently, Handelsblatt launched it’s English edition into a paywall and is gaining some traction. The idea itself is unique, since there isn’t one notable business media staple, Made in Germany, in the world’s lingua franca. Personally, I think it’s a bit too patriotic, which in itself is worth a century of dissertations, what it means to be a patriotic German, or better European. At least it’s possible to do big global business without guilt, by exporting heavy machinery, which includes tanks and guns. Technically the site is pretty sluggish and could see some usability updates.

Then there’s ZEITmagazin’s „Berlin State of Mind“ print only cultural read, which launched in 2013. Funny that a Hamburg-based media company needs Berlin as it’s tag line. I think it’s the most ambitious soft culture zine about and from Germany out there. Glossy, yet with a solid editorial focus on photography and aesthetics. Too bad, you can’t really find it on the Interwebs or order it for English speakers to understand. Last but not least, there’s Deutsche Welle, pretty much a force funded political arm of the German Foreign Ministry, albeit in 30 languages and ad free!

I wonder whether German culture isn’t made for a truly global read. If you look at The Economist, BBC or The Guardian, who’ve had a head start in terms of language competence, as well as some notable Empire experience, the Brits are clearly the true global media players. I think US publications are too America-centric and lack a certain cultural sensibility that drifts away from I’m a fifth Irish or NBA world championship rings.

Maybe a truly European global voice is needed, one that transcends borders, knowing that planet earth is tiny, yet embraces local patriotism with years of experience, unhurried and diverse, with the tightest data privacy, football and olives in the world.

Blogs and Digital Culture

Weblogs link content.

To and about cultures, news, studies, thoughts, concepts, immediate reality, and practically all digitally inter-connected spheres. They allow glimpses into ambigious time and space coordinates, mostly personal and opinionated they speak out and invite to understand, define forms of digital being – enabling the self to re-think itself, writes Mortensen. They have the capability of linking the digital with the physical and challenge our notion of publication while re-defining news specialists. Intertwined in comment loops of foreign faces. Sharing a culture of real virtuality, which Castells describes as

a system in which reality itself is entirely captured, fully immersed in a virtual image setting, in the world of make believe, in which appearances are not just on the screen through which experience is communicated, but they become the experience.

These experiences are as diverse as the audiences themselves that oppose the idea of Mass Culture as Eco describes,

one thing we do know is that there doesn’t exist a Mass Culture in the sense imgained by the apocalyptic critics of mass communications because this model competes with others.

It is a nano culture that gained mediasphere visibility during the main offensive of the Iraq War, partly because netizens used this highly democratic publishing technology to make sense of war propaganda in times when the press cheers for the home army;

even in modern-nation states with supposedly free, democratic news media, writes Macarthur.

As a higher goal in any democracy is self actualization, the weblog is a supplement to this aim and

becomes yet another cultural form in which its representations (how it is perceived or thought about) can be viewed as a political position.

Mortensen, T., & Walker, J. (2002, April 8). Blogging Thoughts, pp. 265.

Castells, M. (2000). The Rise of the Network Society (Second ed.), pp. 404.

Eco in Castells, M. (2000). The Rise of the Network Society (Second ed.), pp. 363.

Trend, D. (Ed.). (2001). Reading Digital Culture, pp. 296.

Macarthur, J. R. (1992). Second Front – Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War, pp. xi.