The sewing magazine Burda Style celebrates its 70th anniversary with today’s September issue – and reminisces about seven decades in the world of fashion.
Super Illu marked its 30th birthday with a congratulatory message from Angela Merkel herself, direct from the Federal Chancellery in Berlin. Birthday greetings don’t get much better than that. As Frau Merkel remarks, Super Illu focuses on people in East Germany and gives them a voice.
“Super Illu is a child of German reunification. Launched in August 1990, it quickly established a name for itself. It has been there to provide advice and support as our country has grown together. 30 years after the first issue, this aspiration remains highly topical. We need East German voices, experiences and perspectives. Its many loyal readers confirm this week after week. I wish the publisher and the editorial team every success for the future with this beloved magazine.”
Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor
A magazine that understands people in the East
The Super Illu team works tirelessly for this success; the magazine is dear to their hearts, and the East is much more than just a point on the compass. Readers really appreciate this authenticity and their close relationship with their audience. Even today, the magazine is bucking the general trend by performing positively on the market, with growth of 2.2% in the hard currency of retail sales (IVW II/2020) and a 5.9% increase in reach to an average of 1.81 million readers per issue (ma II/2020). Super Illu has as much socio-political relevance now as it did 30 years ago, and it has been a permanent fixture throughout the merging of East and West Germany. Providing information, services and entertainment perfectly tailored to its target group, Super Illu is so successful that it reaches more people in Germany’s eastern states than Focus, “Stern” and “Spiegel” combined.
“Project Unity”, tested by the media
In 1990, Jochen Wolff (Super Illu’s first editor-in-chief) and his East/West team of around 20 people embarked on a great adventure in truly thrilling circumstances. The most exciting media experiment of the time was launched in Berlin-Mitte just a few weeks before reunification. On his travels, Hubert Burda had come to appreciate the people and places in the East – after the Berlin Wall came down, he saw an opportunity to create a magazine specifically for the people in East Germany.
For our publisher, Super Illu was a real affair of the heart. At first the editorial team found it quite tricky to bring his vision to life. Most of the “Ossis” (East Germans) believed that the “Wessis” (West Germans) had no idea how the East worked. By the same token, the West German editors didn’t think their East German colleagues understood how independent journalism worked. Gerald Praschl, one of Super Illu’s first editors and now head of its political section, recalls heated discussions that were often filled with life stories: “Our editorial team was a testing ground for ‘Project Unity’. And a place where mutual understanding and respect could grow!”
A country and magazine in flux
In addition to these personal challenges, there were plenty of technical obstacles to overcome. The wall may have fallen, but telephone lines were few and far between. Former editor-in-chief Jochen Wolff remembers travelling several kilometres to find one. The team conducted their research all around the country, ensuring an all-important close relationship with readers right from the outset.
30 years, 3 captains, 1 mission
Super Illu has always had its finger on East Germany’s pulse – back then, citizens were coming to terms with the injustices of the GDR, but also with enjoying freedom “between the sheets”. Topics such as unemployment also caused turmoil in the East, and Super Illu helped them negotiate everyday life in the “new” market economy. The large advice section remains an essential part of the magazine.
Super Illu has always been a magazine for the people in East Germany, not about them. For the three editors-in-chief, taking responsibility for the most popular, topical East German magazine was and remains a very special honour.
Over the years, editor-in-chief Stefan Kobus has heard the same question again and again: “Hasn’t the whole East/West thing resolved itself already?” His response? “No, quite the opposite. There are still too many prejudices, too many misunderstandings – or a lack of understanding. We need media products that really understand the people in the East! That depict the reality of their lives, that care about their worries and hardships but also about their successes.” Super Illu has filled this brief pretty well over the last three decades. “Thanks to the wonderful editors! And thanks to our many loyal readers. It makes me so happy to produce this magazine week after week together with my team.”