After nearly 320 years since its inception, the world’s oldest national newspaper has printed its final daily edition. Wiener Zeitung, a Vienna-based newspaper, will discontinue its daily print editions due to recent legislative changes that have made it unprofitable as a print product.
In April, Austria’s coalition government passed a law that eliminated the requirement for companies to pay for publishing public announcements in the print edition of the newspaper. This change effectively ended Wiener Zeitung’s role as an official gazette. As a result, the publisher suffered an estimated loss of €18 million (£15 million) in revenue, leading to the reduction of 63 jobs, including a decrease in the editorial staff from 55 to 20, according to Der Spiegel.
However, Wiener Zeitung will continue its online publication and is exploring the possibility of distributing a monthly print edition, although details about this plan are still being developed.
Owned by the Austrian government but maintaining editorial independence, the newspaper began its journey in August 1703. Over the centuries, it has witnessed the reigns of 12 presidents, 10 kaisers, and two republics. Its inaugural edition promised to deliver news in a straightforward manner “without any oratory or poetic gloss.”
Noteworthy historical events have been chronicled in the newspaper’s pages. In 1768, it reported on a concert featuring a remarkably talented 12-year-old named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. During the aftermath of World War I, Wiener Zeitung published a special edition containing the abdication letter of the last Habsburg emperor, Kaiser Karl.
In its final daily print edition on Friday, the newspaper ran an editorial attributing the demise of its print run to the government’s new law. It lamented the challenges faced by quality journalism in the current era, where serious content contends for attention with fake news, cat videos, and conspiracy theories across various platforms.
At the time of its discontinuation, Wiener Zeitung’s weekday circulation stood at a modest 20,000, which doubled on weekends.
The newspaper’s last interviews featured Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Austrian chancellors Franz Vranitzky and Wolfgang Schüssel, and the Vice-President of the European Commission, Věra Jourová. Expressing her discontent with the situation, Jourová remarked that she believed Wiener Zeitung had played an important role in informing people throughout the years.
Wiener Zeitung endured a single forced hiatus in its three-century history. When Austria was incorporated into Hitler’s Germany, the newspaper was shut down by the Nazis in 1939. It resumed printing in 1945, during Austria’s period of allied occupation.
The title of the world’s oldest newspaper is a matter of contention. The Gazzetta di Mantova, a local newspaper first published in 1664, lays claim to the title. Meanwhile, the London Gazette, an official gazette of the UK government that does not report news, traces its origins back to 1665.
As of now, the German publication Hildesheimer Allgemeine Zeitung, which debuted in 1705, is widely regarded as the world’s oldest surviving national newspaper.