Wiener Zeitung, the oldest national newspaper in the world, has bid farewell to its daily print publication after an illustrious run of nearly 320 years. The decision comes in response to a recent law change in Austria that has rendered the print product financially unviable, forcing the iconic newspaper to make a difficult and significant move.
The critical law change was enacted in April by the coalition government of the country, and it dealt a severe blow to Wiener Zeitung’s traditional revenue streams. Specifically, the new legislation eliminated the longstanding requirement for companies to pay for public announcements in the print edition, thus effectively ending the newspaper’s role as an official gazette. As a result, the newspaper suffered an estimated loss of €18 million (£15 million) in revenue, compelling a series of consequential measures to mitigate the financial strain.
One of the immediate outcomes of this financial strain was the unfortunate elimination of 63 positions, which included a substantial reduction in editorial personnel from 55 to 20. This move undoubtedly impacted the newspaper’s ability to continue producing the quality journalism it has been known for throughout its illustrious history.
In the face of these challenges, Wiener Zeitung has sought alternative avenues to maintain its presence and continue serving its audience. The newspaper will continue to publish online, ensuring that its digital platform remains a source of reliable news and information. Additionally, Wiener Zeitung is exploring the possibility of releasing a monthly print edition, though specific details of this plan are still being ironed out.
The 1703-founded newspaper has had a significant impact on Austrian society and beyond, chronicling notable events and figures throughout its existence. From documenting Mozart’s 1768 concert to preserving the abdication letter of the last Habsburg emperor during World War I, Wiener Zeitung has been a witness to history and a pillar of information dissemination.
It is essential to note that despite being owned by the Austrian government, Wiener Zeitung has always maintained its editorial independence, ensuring a diverse range of voices and perspectives in its reporting.
In its final daily print edition, the newspaper penned an editorial that laid blame on the government’s new law for the conclusion of its print run. The editorial also delved into the challenges faced by media organizations in producing quality journalism in the digital age, shedding light on the complexities of adapting to an ever-evolving media landscape.
Wiener Zeitung’s weekday circulation had dwindled to 20,000 by April, indicating a shift in reader preferences and media consumption habits. Nevertheless, its weekend circulation remained marginally higher, hinting at the continued interest in the historical publication.
Renowned figures, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Austrian chancellors Franz Vranitzky and Wolfgang Schüssel, were among the final interviewees featured in the newspaper’s last daily edition, adding a touch of poignancy to this significant moment in media history.