Saturday, November 8, 2014

Bad days for German media

Regular readers know that am a big fan of the German media—mostly because of their excellent coverage of environmental issues.  Of course, that excellent coverage owes a great deal to the long-standing and deep discussions the Germans have been having about the environment for several decades now.  I would imagine that their coverage of futbol / soccer is also world-class for largely the same reasons—the national team is really good (World Cup Championship anyone?)

But following the putsch in the Ukraine this spring, an ugly and dark side of the German media began to emerge.  In spite of plenty of excellent economic reasons to maintain close and active commercial relationships with Russia, suddenly outlets like Der Spiegel began to sound like a crackpot version of Fox News—complete with grotesque levels of historical illiteracy.  I am sure I am not the only person wondering how these insane people came to write for news outlets with real reputations for intellectual depth.

Then in September, we found out.  One of the heavy hitters by the name Udo Ulfkotte published a book called “Gekaufte Journalisten“ that describes how the CIA regularly pays to have their version of events put front and center in big journalism on any event that remotely interests the USA foreign policy establishment.  What the CIA is buying is the credibility of the top news professionals.  According to Ulfkotte, these journalists don't even have to write the story—they must only attach their name and reputation to it.

Coming on the heels of the NSA revelations including the tapping of Frau Merkel's cellphone, the disgusted German public not only propelled Ulfkotte's book to the top of Amazon's best-seller list, they have been actively shunning the big news outlets.  Like most large papers worldwide, the name presses in Germany are having problems selling their print editions but this is different, the readership of their online divisions have crashed since September.

So in addition to the hardships USA / EU-ordered sanctions have inflicted on the thousands of Mittlestand enterprises with operations in Russia and the terrible hit to EU agriculture in the name of defending the neocon-engineered putsch in Ukraine, we can now add the incredible damage inflicted on the German media's credibility.  And since credibility is about the only asset a journalistic enterprise has, this is a big hit indeed.

Germans Abandon Major News Sites in Anger Over Slanted Russia Coverage

Triggered by reader disaffection, internet traffic has collapsed for half a dozen major German media websites

Daniele Pozzati, Nov 6, 2014

What's going on in the German media is huge. It is one of the most popular subjects on our site. The US and UK media have been hugely biased in their coverage of Russia, but German media has been far, far, worse, to the point which strains credulity.

Now it turns out that part of the reason is CIA fiddling with German media outlets. Coming on the heels of the Snowden revelations, this has Germans seriously ticked-off. Here's the latest revelation from our correspondent in Germany.

They call it the Ulfkotte-effect. And it's beginning to resemble an avalanche.

Since the publication of Udo Ulfkotte's “Gekaufte Journalisten“ in September – now a #1 Amazon bestseller, in which he charges that the CIA regularly bribes top German journalists, himself included, – German readers' disaffection towards their mainstream media appears to have crossed a point of no return.

Granted, sales of newspapers and magazines have fallen everywhere, not just in Germany. But this is different. This is a boycott that is affecting web traffic. Germans are steering clear of mainstream media websites.

Many Germans have not been too shy to announce their intention on social networks. Some have uploaded videos calling for a boycott on YouTube. Others have created groups calling for the same on Facebook.

The other visible result of reader disaffection has been that throughout September the number of unique visitors to six major German newspapers and magazines was falling steadily.

In October, it simply sank.

Yet up until early summer these same websites had been generating a large and stable amount of traffic. This is an unprecedented trend, and one that is wholly distinct from the fall in newspaper sales generally.

The graphs below show Google analytics provided by Alexa, a company that specializes in actionable analytics for the web.

Six different media sites – and they are all going down

The Spiegel's infamous “Stoppt Putin Jetzt” July 29 cover apparently played a key role in incensing public opinion. An official readers' complaint against Der Spiegel's cover was upheld in August by the German Press Council. The latter ruled that the pictures of MH17 victims on the cover had been “instrumentalized in the context of a political statement.”

Germany's print media was warned even before that, on April 28, when Cicero, a leading German monthly, published a column titled: “Pride after the Fall”. The captions read: “Newspapers die. The reason: they go against their readers. The current Russia reporting is an example. That's not the way to engage with readers.“

The author, Alexander Kissler wrote: “Every quarter the newspapers sector grieves. This is when plummeting circulation figures are released. The curve travels from top left to bottom right, in fact it is not a curve anymore, but a straight line, unstoppable on its way to Zero.“

German media was quick to go on an offensive against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, but just as quickly found itself on the defensive against its readers.

Now, after a further worsening of circulation figures during the spring, web traffic has declined as well.

And it still looks like just the beginning. Has the time come to print a book titled: “2019: The Last Copy of Der Spiegel?” – if the German print media will survive even until then, that is. more

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