Huffington Post Deutschland Launches, Competitors Not Happy

Sabine Brauer Photos for Tomorrow Focus AG

Sabine Brauer Photos for Tomorrow Focus AG

Der Spiegel lashes out at HuffPost’s newest international site

Huffington Post continued its quest for world media dominance Thursday by launching Huffington Post Deutschland — and it’s already making waves with its new German media rivals, who doubt HuffPost’s business model will translate to German readers.

“The critical response to our launch is not unexpected,” Huffington Post CEO Jimmy Maymann told TheWrap. “The German publishing industry is a few years behind the shift towards digital that we have seen in the United States, but they have recently faced sharp declines in print advertising and subscriptions … Paywalls have been rapidly introduced and a ‘free/ad-funded model’ like the one HuffPost is offering is not really what they need at the moment.”

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Indeed, Der Spiegel greeted HuffPost with an article that said the site would face “resistance from skeptical readers,” adding “the German media establishment, however, remains skeptical that Huffington’s business model and media strategy, which has allowed it to surpass the “New York Times'” online readership in the United States, will be successful here.”

Der Spiegel added that HuffPost, which is partnering with Germany’s Tomorrow Focus AG on the site (its other international editions have similarly partnered with local media organizations), approached both Spiegel, the biggest news magazine in Germany, and Axel Springer, one of Germany’s largest media companies, about a partnership. Both turned HuffPost down.

“The head of Axel Springer, which owns several large German newspapers, including mass-circulation daily ‘Bild,’ called Huffington Post’s strategy ‘anti-business model journalism’ in May,” said the Spiegel article. “Axel Springer says it rejected the partnership because the offer was ‘not economically stable.'”

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Huffington Post did not seem phased by the bad press from its new German rivals.

“We are thrilled to join The Huffington Post in bringing this unique business model to Germany, Austria and Switzerland,” said Tomorrow Focus board member Christoph Schuh.

“We want to be among the top five news sources in Germany within the next five years,” said Oliver Eckert, the site’s new managing director.

The biggest obstacle HuffPost Deutschland will face, Spiegel said, is Germany’s strict rules on intellectual property, exposing the aggregation-heavy HuffPost to copyright lawsuits like never before.