In the autumn of leaves

Ringier separates from MEX and from its book publishing house

Ringier parts with MEX and its book publisherBy Markus Knöpfli Ringier is dropping two of its colorful "leaves: As of the end of the year, the Group is discontinuing the activities of its book publishing house and selling the youth magazine MEX Musenalp Express.
In the short time that Martin Kall has been Head of Magazines at Ringier, he has made two decisions that make people sit up and take notice. The closure of the book publishing house breaks with a publishing tradition, and the sale of MEX overturns a concept that Beat Lauber, now Head of New Media at Ringier, created just two years ago.
The book publisher, which put about six titles on the market each year in small print runs, was "not a loss-making business, but we don't play a role in the German-speaking world either," Kall states soberly.
The title rights to three annual periodicals (including "Eulenspiegel" and "Book of the Year") are being sold, and talks with publishers are underway, says Kall. The only exception: The gastronomic guide "Gault Millau" will continue to be published by Ringier's magazine division.
The situation is different at MEX: When they took over Musenalp Express in 1998, they overestimated the size of the market. "In the last two years, we've learned that the youth magazine market works differently," says Kall. What's different, he says, is that young people don't want to pay for magazines and their loyalty to a title is low. That's why Ringier, which entered the market with a certain editorial claim, was unable to compete against the other youth titles with low-cost concepts.
The title had been invested in: a new layout, its own website called Mextown, a circulation adjustment and certification (143,000 copies, 178,000 readers) and an expanded editorial team. Lauber had still dreamed of a multimedia strategy à la GesundheitSprechstunde and hoped to win MEX readers as later subscribers to Blick or Schweizer Illustrierte - or as up-and-coming journalists. "In itself, a good idea. But for a multimedia strategy, you first need a strong brand. As a pool of young talent for the other titles, MEX is too expensive. And the Ringier School of Journalism doesn't have any problems with young talent," says Kall today.

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