Quality comes from qual. For those responsible for the so-called quality newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, looking at their own sales figures has been a torture for a long time: Südwestdeutsche Medienholding GmbH (SWMH) had to report a deficit of 43 million euros in 2019. There are no newer figures.
The owners do not provide any information on business development – even during the corona pandemic: “SWMH does not comment on economic indicators.” No further job cuts are planned this year. The holding company does not make any statements about 2022.
Munich: District reporting is being re-sorted
The SZ contradicts rumors about the closure or sharp shrinkage of the Munich district expenditures. According to SWMH, there will be adjustments for the Munich edition from next Monday. This is how the newspaper loses a book. This is what a coherent bundle of pages is called.
The official answer sounds awkward: “The Munich Book will grow by two pages a day, the coverage of the city district, which previously had its own book, will be integrated into the expanded Munich Book. The Bayern section of the newspaper will also have more space and will grow by one page several days a week. “It’s about more clarity: In the future, the Munich reporting will no longer be divided into two books, but will be compact in one.” According to the publisher, no further jobs will be lost with the change.
A year ago, the publisher started a so-called “volunteer program” to cut 50 positions. The deal was: “Farewell against severance pay.”
The Süddeutsche Zeitung made expensive mistakes and underestimated digitization for many years. In the corona pandemic, digital subscriptions were lifted over the mark of 150,000 subscribers in 2020. It is very questionable, however, whether this will be sufficient to slow down the austerity course.
Because in the second quarter of 2021, the SZ only achieved a sold circulation of just under 311,400 copies. For years the title has been falling almost continuously. For comparison: In 2013, well over 400,000 copies were sold. And digitally, the SZ still plays in the lower ranks despite the offensive: According to the online research group (Agof), its online service sueddeutsche.de recorded 16.16 million monthly unique users in August 2021. Portals like Bild.de (24.11), welt.de (24.49) or FOCUS Online (25.76) have been playing in a completely different league for years.
SWMH sent editorial staff on short-time work during the pandemic
The SZ mother SWMH had to send the editorial team on short-time work during the pandemic. The explanation must sound like mockery to the ears of the employees: There is less to report because of Corona.
A look at the numbers of the SZ majority shareholder SWMH in the Federal Gazette reveals unpleasant truths. These go beyond the admission that “SWMH did not achieve its target in terms of key performance indicators in the 2019 financial year”.
Risk to the financing of SWMH
“In any case, however, we must assume that the targets for 2020 cannot be achieved. In addition, if the Corona crisis persists, there is also a risk to the financing of the SWMH Group “, it says on page 4 of the consolidated financial statements for 2019. And on page 5 it follows:” If the Corona crisis persists the risk that the contractual credit obligations with regard to an agreed financial ratio cannot be met temporarily. Due to the temporary nature of the adverse effects of Corona and the subsequently expected positive development of SWMH, we assume that in the event of non-compliance with the key figure, another agreement can be made with the financing banks. We therefore continue to see the financing of SWMH as secure, both in the short and medium term. “
In other words: the once glorious newspaper is hanging on the banks’ needle. Programs to cut costs should take effect, as “Kress” reports. But that is also sorely needed, because the reference to the banks is absolutely valid. The debt burden is pressing. SWMH has reported around 210.7 million euros in bank liabilities in 2019. In addition, there are a further 133.7 million euros in other liabilities, including shareholder loans.
In view of the financial difficulties, it is no wonder that little or nothing is heard of the 100 million euros that should flow into digital projects. According to “Kress”, shareholders asked themselves where the money for the investments and the fulfillment of the “full-bodied promises” should come from.