The Brand Eins

[See german post and comments]

„To me“, that is what my friend Anna said, „to me slow media is brand eins.“ Everytime she is at home at her friend Peter’s house – who subscribes to the magazine brand eins for years – and everytime she has time and quiet to do so, she reads a brand eins. And everytime she likes it, she says. “No matter whether it’s the current issue or from the last year. Even if I do not agree to every article, brand eins is always well done and worth reading.” This describes exactly what I want to call media sustainability. The articles published in brand eins are longlasting and stay fresh over months and years. Their effect does not stop with actuality, nor does it stop at one single reader. A brand eins is enough for several readers.

Behind Slow Media are real people, that is what we say, and you can feel that. And that is how you feel behind brand eins the people who make it, people who always believed in this magazine. Even after the failure of Econy, the forerunner of brand eins, they believed in bringing close economy and ethics. And in including high-end Editorial Design (still cared of by Mike Meiré). Of course the chief editor Gabriele Fischer and her team do not write all the articles themselves. But their way to look at the world, the values they share and their attitude towards their readers speak to us throught their magazine.

This is not just showing-off, something they only say or pretend to be. You find these values – without getting too much into details – also in the contracts with their authors. Of course authors also give away their rights of use, just as in other magazines. But – and that is a big difference – they are spoken to as respected partners who add value to a valueable content. Trainees are told to write articles that are worth reading even after an year. So what my friend Anna told me was no coincidence. This after-effect is a declared aim. This luxury of quality is not only focussed on hit and run selling but on longterm effect. The ambition is being read and inspiring people, not just selling. It’s about bonding with the readers. And that creates loyality.

This attitude allows courageous decisions. For example the Special Edition April 2000 (sustainability until now: over 10 years). The first 30 pages are dedicated to the Cluetrain Manifesto and its 95 theses concerning the change of the markets driven by the internet. The Cluetrain Manifesto is now known to have been visionary. It has still unbroken, even increasing actuality (itself a perfect example for slowness). At that time is was unknown and strange. Everyone else was happy with the dotcom-boom. It was not evident to talk of markets being conversations and of the end of fast profits. But the manifesto touched the brand eins team and they decided to follow their inspiration with a special edition. This was exactly while the boom peaked in mid march 2000. “Didn’t we – despite all enthusiasm for the founding boom – expect more from the New Economy than just more and still more millionaires?”, asked Gabriele Fischer in the preface of that special edition. Managers and politicians didn’t want to answer, their press officers where told to say they didn’t have time to answer that sort of questions. Well, but the brand eins wanted to look for answers.

When did they finalize the april issue? Before the crash? At the peak? After the crash? Anyway. An opposite position like that was courageous and risky. You don’t do this when you just want to sell your edition.

So here is good news for those who think “slow” might be just romantic and far from reality: Users feel the mindset behind media. They notice the ambition behind it – like my friend Anna – and they are ready to pay for it. Slow Media can be well done and profitable.

You might say that Anna herself did not pay for the magazine – so inspiration does not necessarily create profit. Here is my answer: Her friend Peter does not have time enough to read the brand eins, but he still subscribes it. He would never cancel his subsription of brand eins just because he does not have time to read it. He stands by his magazine, he told me, no matter how short time is. That is loyality between readers and their magazine.

Additional note:

Gabriele Fischer just answered the question “When did they finalize the april issue?”: The april issue was already produced when the dotcom-boom was still blowing up. The Cluetrain-Special-Edition of the brand eins was in the printing process when the dotcom-boom turned into a bursting bubble on March, 13th.

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Other articles on magazines on the english Slow Media Blog:

Wired Magazine

Scientific American

On Lent

[Original German Blog Post]
P. Breughel d. Ä.:Carnival und Fastenzeit

“Restore to me the joy.” (Psalm 51,12)

In the mass of Ash Wednesday this psalm formulates the beseeching for the beginning lent.

Despite an ongoing trend to fasting cures it is not common to speak about fasting and particularly repentance in connection with joy. It is easy to catch the unindulgent attitude and the tendency to suppressing drive – which are often alleged to Christendom – being concentrated here. Fasting remains caught in the closet of the spiritual or esoteric.

The current talking about media fasting accordingly provokes vivid discussion, both sides mutually implying to argument religiously and not objectively – and not by accident. No one else then Benedict XVI – always on the spot to upsetting his opponents, in the Angelus of Feb 17th 2008 recommended abstinence from media to support contemplation and catharsis:

“It may be useful for a while to refrain from the abundance and flooding of voices and images in our every-day’s life” (in German)

***
Fasting and diet are terms that have been appearing in context with Slow Media at various locations, when it came to the desire for a cure from a sense of excessive demand or the uncertainty of how far ones own life is depending from media and the Internet in particular. In her Blog, Jana Herwig titles “Twitter-fasting: I’ll do it (but not for Schirrmacher and Kluge)”:

“However I want sometimes to be without this [social media sense] again, not to always take the smart phone to check what’s up elsewhere while I am in the underground or during other moments of low action level; not to give way to the urge to formulate thoughts that are just articulating; not to follow and not to know, how others might react, but to keep it for myself alone.”

Also Luca Hammer, estimating himself as beeing author of up to 800 tweets a month refers to this post:

“Several hours a day, that I spend to reed and write tweets. High frequency. Always on my mind. What would happen, if I used this time for blogging?

And even Ibrahim Evsan – hardly suspicious of being an Internet sceptic – prescribes himself an Internet-diet from time to time: “When I get to heavy, I have to consume less and move more; when If my time for the real life gets ‘lost’ in the digital world I have to take care to optimise my social media consumption.

***
Repentance, μετάνοια, how the term is in the Greek text of the Gospels, means literally re-thinking and not only admission of guilt and thus avoiding punishment which resonates with the Latin term poenitentia. For becoming able to rethink, Benito Cocchi, Archbishop of Modena demands to voluntarily set aside SMS, Internet and television for one week and to cultivate understanding instead of just communicating: “Per tornare a comunicare, invece di komunikare”.

“This is because in a pluralistic society whatever promises novelty and sensation is presented indiscriminately. Certainly, there are also valuable programmes of information and entertainment. But people must be taught mature judgement if they are to choose wisely.”

Benedikt XVI. gave his German Bishops a talking during their Ad-Limina-Visitation (but without providing a pretext for refusing the Internet, for: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Petr 3,15)).

Fasting, says Thomas Aquinas may “… bridle the lusts of the flesh so the mind may arise more freely to the contemplation of heavenly things.”

By stepping back the view may be opened on the consequences that our communication devices impose on the world. And Benito Cocchi has explicitly in mind the material consequences, for a huge part of our electronic equipment is produced by means of the most disgusting exploitation – which is way too rarely brought to attention – and to which everyone of us should kindly take his part of responsibility. Apart from all CSR-rhetoric of Green Computing we have to face that we are still far from sustainability with our media consumption!

***
When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face.(Matt 6,16-17)

Fasting should not be a burden, as well as media fasting; it may restore us the joy! It may give a reason to reflect on ones own use of communication media, to consider critically the contents and – with the necessary distance – to picture ones own position in the social net – what might fortunately be not so pivotal:

For dust you are and to dust you will return. (Gen 3,19)