Listen up, 'New York Times': German papers thrive with tech

Craigslist and blogs supposedly mean the end of traditional newspapers, but in Germany the papers are using technology to boost profits.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval

Newspapers are doomed because of the Internet.

That's the conventional wisdom one hears in the U.S., but according to a story last week in BusinessWeek, some German newspapers are defying the odds and are using technology to boost sales.

Some of Germany's biggest papers are seeing growth, even double-digit growth, at a time when some of this country's biggest daily papers, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times, are posting declining earnings.

So the U.S. could learn a thing or two from the Germans, right?

"It's too late," Kai Diekmann, publisher of Bild, Europe's largest newspaper and a publication that posted its most profitable year in 2007, told BusinessWeek.

One of the things the Germans did right and U.S. newspapers did wrong was adopt an aggressive Web strategy early. Publishers invited readers to use the paper's Web site early on and got them used to starting their day there instead of a search engine or portal, according to the BusinessWeek story.

Bild has also gone big into mobile phones and offers prepaid phone service at newsstands. Customers get unlimited Web access and downloads as long as they stay connected to the paper's Web site. As a result, Bild is Germany's No. 1 mobile Web news site, according to the magazine.

Jack Ewing, the story's author, wrote: "The lesson seems to be that there are ways for papers to survive the shift to digital if they're willing to take risks."