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How the word’s oldest daily newspaper was able to successfully transition to online and capture a young audience

The Wiener Zeitung is a cultural heritage of Austria and the oldest daily newspaper in the world, founded in 1703. The Austrian authorities began to publish official documents on the Internet, so the printed version became unnecessary. How did the team survive this and launch the website from scratch? Deputy editor-in-chief Katharina Schmidt told about this as part of the curriculum of the Digital ABC course, which was created by the «Association of Independent Regional Publishers of Ukraine».

The last printed version of the publication was published on June 30, 2023, and since July, the editors have launched a digital version called WZ. The site is funded by the state. By law, WZ, as a public media, has to cover topics from specific points of view: for example, from a political or historical point of view or with a special emphasis on Austria as a favorable place for business. The editors emphasize: the topic should be socially relevant and for several months or more. The focus of the media should be on all Austrians, leaving the emphasis on Vienna behind.

There have been changes in media funding, if previously it was 18 million euros per year, now it is more than 6. The staff of journalists also had to be reduced from 50 to 12. In general, the team consists of 20 people.

The editors try to use other approaches in their work. First of all, it is the application of data analytics, which was not done much before. According to the deputy editor-in-chief, the planning of materials for the site takes place in a week and a half, after the text is written, it is carefully edited and analyzed so that it meets the audience’s needs. Actually, all journalists should ask themselves the question: what is the purpose of what I do? How will my material benefit?

— Previously, there were teams that dealt with political news, sports, or something else. We have now introduced the position of head of work with the text. It’s like the main copywriter, every week a different person in the team takes on this function. She is responsible for ensuring that there are correct titles, that the materials and photos are of high quality and meet the audience’s request, that there are not too many abbreviations, etc. There are separate people who are engaged in podcasts and social networks, — the deputy editor-in-chief explains.

WZ has moved away from the practice of writing long texts. Every day, approximately one material with a length of 3000 characters appears on the site. It’s not about slowness, it’s about quality. Each article should be explained in detail and filled with expert opinions. She should give comprehensive explanations on certain topics.

— Now we ignore the question of relevance, because we have a small staff, we understand that we cannot always be the first. The content is mainly focused on what is determined by law: the political and economic situation, scientific developments, issues of democracy, etc. We also practice forming small teams that work together on the same topic, such as the use of property or budget funds, etc. Also, we do not compete, but cooperate with independent editors and give them the opportunity to publish their texts on our platform, — Katharina Schmidt continues.

For content distribution, the publication uses social networks, but here they do not bet on Facebook, as in Ukraine, for example. Instagram, Tik Tok and YouTube are the main platforms that are being developed in Austria. The plan is to attract at least 5% of the entire young audience of Austria to the site.

— If you have problems with money, forget about printed publications. It is better to invest these funds in the development of your media. It is quite possible to convey that quality is not only about paper. On the sites, it is quite possible to provide high-quality up-to-date information, explain — Katharina Schmidt ends the conversation.

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