Taking inspiration from the 1920s, Axel Springer launches a print magazine for a digital age

When you bring a print offering into the world of swipe, click and highly fragmented content consumption, it better be “super analog”, says DIE DAME publisher Christian Boros, media entrepreneur and art collector. “It needs to be something you really get your hands on. Something you can feel the weight of, smell, enjoy the touch of the different paper being used… This kind of product does not work digitally.”

Die Dame ()

In what he describes as an “analog exclamation point in the digital present”, Boros worked for more than a year with a dedicated team at Axel Springer Media House to resurrect a publication that was originally printed between 1912 and 1937 by the Ullstein publishing house. At the time it targeted the extravagant, emancipated women living the high life in a vibrant Berlin. 

The rebirth of such an iconic brand did not come without it’s own set of unique challenges. One of these was that the original magazine had a close relationship with the art scene in Berlin. The team had to understand how to bring back this connection in a modern magazine. Much of this was achieved by working with talented artists, photographers and writers. 

Boros references how he asked German artist Martin Eder to paint watercolours of beautiful women to be printed in DIE DAME because Eder is so highly celebrated in this genre. Eder, however, decided to paint men – the first time he did this and one of the triumphs of the first new edition.  

Managing editor Lena Bergmann stresses that the emphasis was on creating a modern retro product and not merely a copy of the original. To do this, they had to understand what distinguished DIE DAME from other magazines of the era.

“What made DIE DAME special was that it was completely different from any other publication. It even went against the grain of the usual reading habits of the time. So we asked: ‘what is the situation today?’ Today we consume media in a highly fragmented manner… We constantly consume pictures and short text formats digitally. Some brands even boast that the reading time will (only) be two or four minutes.”

It was thus important for the team to come up with a product that “ran counter to these modern reading habits”. Printed over 292 pages, contributors are prestigious writers offering long form journalism and short stories, and photographers whose images create elaborate picture sequences.

Another challenge was how to translate original themes and formats into present day relevance. Bergmann says, while digging through old issues, they found it fascinating that then – as now – existed a feminine shaped feuilleton section with strong female writers “who dive into a changing world and report on what’s happening”.

More of these strong female voices to be found in DIE DAME are WELT journalist Ronja von Rönne writing about couples ageing together, and an essay by Mara Delius, head of Literarische WELT, on the car as a place of desire. Writer and filmmaker Helene Hegemann considers female forms of self-determination while writer Antonia Baum offers her thoughts on breastfeeding. These long form pieces appear alongside fashion spreads photographed by Philip Gay, Bela Borsodi, Ronald Dick and Antje Peters.

“Lots of passion went into the design,” attests publishing director Petra Kalp. “But it’s not only a labour of love; it’s also created to be financially successful… For years at Axel Springer we’ve been fascinated by the idea of redefining the magazine avant-garde of the 1920s in the present day. It’s wonderful to see that DIE DAME wasn’t just a project that’s close to our hearts – the response from advertising customers has been overwhelming.”

The new DIE DAME first appears on Thursday, 2 March 2017, with a print run of 50,000 copies at a cover price of €15, as well as a bound book collectors’ edition at €49. The second issue will appear in the fall (September to December) of 2017.

Axel Springer is a member of FIPP.

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