How Wort & Bild Verlag is transforming health journalism in Germany

Wort & Bild Verlag has been the leading provider of health media in Germany for almost 70 years, producing high quality print products that are distributed at pharmacies. Key to the publisher’s success during that time has been its ability to adapt to readers’ needs. With the launch of its latest magazine, that evolution continues.

Designed to be a bridge between pharmacies and their “young, female, digital-savvy customers”, is a print publication that complements an online health platform with the same name – the two working together to better serve readers. So, while the platform, in which Wort & Bild Verlag is a partner,  provides information on how to locate health professionals, get e-subscriptions and Covid tests, the magazine (available at almost 4,000 pharmacies) focuses on the importance of digital solutions in the health sector, in addition to more general wellbeing features.

“Our digital strategy is a clear complement to print, an extension with a variety of new possibilities that offer readers immediate added value,” explains Julia Rotherbl, Member of the Editorial Board of Wort & Bild Verlag’s flagship publication, Apotheken Umschau (Pharmacy Review).

Julia Rotherbl, Member of the Editorial Board of Apotheken Umschau
Photo: W&B/Anne Hufnagl

“Indeed, the Covid-19 crisis has clearly shown the health sector how important digital solutions are. Our tailored, contemporary offering supports the image of the local pharmacy as a health advisor and service provider on the cutting edge of digital possibilities.

“That is why we are strongly committed to the central health platform,, and publishing the customer magazine of the same name. It intends to bring the health platform to life in the local pharmacy and form a link between the print and digital worlds.”

Joining the fight against Covid joins a stable of publications at Wort & Bild Verlag that cover medical issues across the age spectrum. In addition to Apotheken Umschau there are Baby und Familie (for young parents and grandparents), Medizini (with activities for children), Ärztlicher Ratgeber (medical advice for parents), Senioren Ratgeber (senior advice), Diabetes Ratgeber (a diabetes guide) and HausArzt-Patientenmagzin (for General Practitioners and their patients).

Given its range of 28 million readers in Germany ever month, the publisher – working across all its platforms – has played a crucial role during the Covid-19 pandemic in keeping the public informed and cutting through a fog of virus misinformation.

Throughout the pandemic, Apotheken Umschau has run clear, concise articles about the outbreak and the medicines used to combat the pandemic – using language the general public could understand.

The publisher has launched podcast ‘Klartext Corona’ (Clear Corona Stories) and video podcast ‘Nachgefragt! (Asked!)’ – examining the pandemic from different perspectives by using experts from science and research. Wort & Bild Verlag’s instructional videos on topics like face masks have received over five million views, while the publisher has supported local pharmacies by printing 17 million free flyers with Covid-19 information. The travel chaos caused by the virus has been tackled with app ‘Corona-Reise-Check’ (Corona Travel Check), which keeps readers up to date with the latest rules and restrictions.

“Covid-19 has been the predominant topic in the media because people were dependent on serious and reliable health information on scale that was previously unimaginable,” says Gudrun Kreutner, Head of Corporate Communications of Wort & Bild Verlag.

“For quality media like ours, this has been a great moment for journalism. We have been able to prove our value as a beacon to inform, create order and provide deeper understanding. When an issue affects people so directly, they very quickly get a sense of who is providing reliable, well-researched and serious reporting. As a health publisher with a lot of experience, this pandemic was also an enormous challenge for us, which our team of experienced health journalists passed with flying colours.”

Gudrun Kreutner, Head of Corporate Communications and Member of the
Management of Wort & Bild Verlag. Photo: Andrea Ruehrnschopf

Wort & Bild Verlag has one of the largest health editorial teams in this country, made up of medical journalists, doctors and pharmacists. The company has placed an emphasis on promoting young talent with many employees completing internships. To ensure synergy across all brands, Wort & Bild Verlag launched an internal ‘health agenda’ that ensures editors, while experts in their individual fields, work across all titles.

“This means that the processes and structures in the editorial team are even better focused on both promoting strong print media and publishing new digital content quickly and in line with the target group – all with the highest journalistic quality,” says Rotherbl.

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The soothing powers of print

A key component in Wort & Bild Verlag’s success is the trust the public has in its prints publications, having built up a relationship with an individual title.

“Our many millions of readers receive ‘their’ Apotheken Umschau from the pharmacy they trust for health advice at home,” says Kreutner. “The readership data backs this up: On average, readers read our magazine for 91 minutes – the length of a feature film. Ninety-six per cent of readers say that they find articles by experts they can fully rely on, which are informative and useful.”

Wort und Bild Verlag’s love for print extends to a range of beautifully produced books – covering subjects like back pain, skin care and healthy eating – that people can buy through their online shop.

“Our book series launched in 2020 and has been a resounding success,” says Rotherbl. “Four of our books have already made it onto the coveted ‘Spiegel Bestseller List’ for cookbooks.

“This year, we will launch seven more new books, and many more exciting topics are in the pipeline for the future. The topics are developed in our editorial offices. As we have seen, high-quality health content is in high demand and will remain so in the future.”

Lending a helping hand

Over the years, Wort & Bild Verlag has gone to great lengths to work with pharmacies and improve the way the industry operates. In addition to launching, the publisher has also created a pharmacy training platform in conjunction with marketing company WEFRA Werbeagentur Frankfurt that has so far attracted around 15,000 registered users.

“It’s an information and training platform for PTAs and pharmacy teams with a constantly updated and wide range of training videos to support the provision of advice in everyday pharmacy work,” explains Kreutner. “There are also coaching videos for individual advice sessions and news from Apotheken Umschau.”

To help pharmacies undergo a smooth digital transition, Wort & Bild Verlag has created a blog called ‘Digitale Workstoffe’ (Digital Active Ingredients) in cooperation with Gehe Akademie, one of the leading platforms for pharmacy training.

The publisher also supports companies in German-speaking countries through subsidiary Isartal Ventures. “Our focus is on business ideas and revenue models in the health sector that strengthen the local pharmacy,” says Kreutner. “Some examples of investments are DoctorBox GmbH (and app that stores all your health data in a central locations) or Fit Tech Company GmbH.”

Keep rolling with the punches

Despite all the disruptions of Covid-19, Wort & Bild Verlag is looking towards the future with confidence, safe in the knowledge that the company will continue to change with the times.

“The media survive by changing and adapting, from the desire for something new,” says Kreutner. “And there is a large number of creative minds, both in start-ups and in established media companies, who want to venture into new things.

Apotheken Umschau is celebrating its 65th birthday this year – and it has stayed around this long because it has always evolved. We are very proud of our team, who have learned to deal with an unprecedented situation in such a short time. We are therefore well-equipped to move into the future with courage, confidence and new-found sovereignty, and we believe in countless new and promising possibilities.”

About Julia Rotherbl and Gudrun Kreutner

Julia Rotherbl is a member of the Apotheken Umschau editorial board and leads Germany’s major health magazine together with Dr Dennis Ballwieser. After her studies at the LMU Munich and a daily newspaper traineeship at the “Münchner Merkur”, Julia Rotherbl became editor of the Wort & Bild titles “Baby und Familie” and “Apotheken Umschau” from 2008 to 2011. After four years at the women’s magazine “Cosmopolitan”, she returned to Apotheken Umschau in 2015 as head of copy. Since March 2021, she has been responsible for continuing to develop Apotheken Umschau in print and online as a member of the editorial board.

Gudrun Kreutner is Head of Corporate Communications of Wort & Bild Verlag. She is an advisory board member for digital communication for HealthcareWomen and co-founder of the think tank Apotheke. As a communications expert, she was the press spokesperson of the Austrian Chamber of Pharmacists in Vienna from 2004 to 2017. Previously, she was, among other things, head of corporate communications at the online prepaid payment service provider Paysafecard. She has won numerous advertising and communication awards in her role, including the EFFIE in Gold in Vienna, and the communications award at the digital conference VISION.A in Berlin. Gudrun Kreutner studied economics in Innsbruck and Helsinki.

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