Reinventing the Future of Journalism Every Day

Jochen on How to Address Challenges at ZEIT ONLINE

Why did you decide to join ZEIT ONLINE?

I had actually just left journalism and was lucky to start a flourishing small business. At the time, I could not have imagined returning to my old profession. Rainer Esser, the ZEIT managing director, called me and made me an offer I could not refuse: editor-in-chief at ZEIT ONLINE. I have subscribed to ZEIT since my 16th birthday, and I had to find out what my favorite medium felt like from the inside. I also wanted to understand why the ZEIT is so successful against all odds. Now, seven years later, I am sure I made the right decision to return to journalism. But I still don't know the one reason for the ongoing positive development of the company. There are many, and I keep discovering new ones.

What was your development within the group like?

I started as editor-in-chief of ZEIT ONLINE, and I am now also a member of ZEIT editorship.

What are the special challenges you and your team are currently facing?

It might sound strange: Every day we try to invent the future of journalism anew - through agile working, through experiments, in other words: by trying out things. I think that only if we hold on to this basic tension, will we remain successful in the long-term, because the internet changes every few months. Sometimes we come up with a new idea which works - then we try to develop and grow it. This is how the best projects came about for us. They weren't planned as strategically as they come across today, but were often created playfully - for example "Deutschland spricht", our podcasts, in which we are now market leaders, or the foundation of our successfully working subscription strategy. The business model of course faces the greatest challenge for all traditional media: to gradually move to digital pillars without irritating the conventional too much.

What do you especially value about your work at ZEIT ONLINE?

The joy the entire team experiences by always trying out new things, and at the same time not losing sight of everyday life - this applies to all editors and colleagues in the publishing house. Fortunately, we have managing directors who don't fight new things, but actually promote them. Finding the balance between the present and the future is almost impossible. We are pleased to achieve this relatively often.

What would you recommend to students or graduates who want to join our group?

To ask people, who seem to have a really exciting job, for advice. Oh, yes, and: Stay hungry, stay foolish.

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Portrait photo of our colleague Jochen


Editor-in-Chief at ZEIT ONLINE

"I have subscribed to ZEIT since my 16th birthday, and I had to find out what my favorite medium felt like from the inside."