Lunch with Business Editor of Die Welt

I had a delightful lunch in Berlin with the Business Section editor of Die Welt, the largest daily newspaper in Germany.

I first met Dirk Nolde via email one year ago when he saw on my blog that I was hoping to crash the World Economic Forum event in Zermatt, Switzerland. He ultimately wrote about my attempted break-in, after offering to try to help me get in (we were unsuccessful).

We had lunch near his office in Berlin and chatted about journalism, blogging/internet, and business. I was particularly interested in picking his brain about the differences between the way we think about this stuff in the U.S. versus in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

First, Dirk told me that his paper (and most European papers) are dealing with the same kind of challenges U.S. newspapers are: the internet is shrinking their subscriber base and more and more readers are expecting more and better content online. Interestingly, they’re not feeling the “Craigslist effect” — classifieds aren’t part of their core business. Where they’re feeling the hurt is in a) loss of subscribers, and b) loss of advertisers (companies who want more targeted / relevant hits).

Second, he told me his paper just recently adopted the American/British model of journalism which is to split reporters and editors. Before, some reporters also did editing, and vice-versa. Why they did this for so long is beyond me, but they’re happy with the adoption and it’s much more efficient.

Third, this was most interesting, in Germany interviewees still maintain some control of the content of their interview. That is, if one of Dirk’s reporters interviews a CEO, the CEO gets to review the interview transcript / article before it goes to print and make any (minor) changes. This gets them more interviews with big time players but they’re not as hard hitting. And sometimes if the CEO makes too many changes, they simply don’t run the article.

We talked briefly about women in business. Shockingly, Dirk told me that there is only one woman on any board of directors at any of the 30 largest public German companies. Holy catfish. No wonder Norway is instituting quotas (but I still think that’s counterproductive).

Danke Dirk for a fun lunch!

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