Freizeit Spass

Competition at the Newsstand - Burda Copies Itself and Lands Magazine Coup


To understand the magazine coup that Burda achieved 20 years ago, we need to go back to 1970. It all began with an invention by Senator Franz Burda. The father of publisher Hubert Burda launched the first issue of Freizeit & Rätsel Revue (now Freizeit Revue) on July 7, 1970. Combining contemporary entertainment and advice section, many crossword puzzles and competitions and the German singer Udo Jürgens on the cover of the first issue, this new magazine concept was immediately well received by its readers. Ten years later, circulation had surpassed one million (with over 1.1 million copies sold in 1980). At the time, this success positioned Freizeit Revue as fifth place in the women's and entertainment magazine segment. Over the decades, Freizeit Revue became a major source of revenue at Burda. In other words: a cash cow. Naturally, this new sales powerhouse attracted considerable interest from competitors who sought to emulate its success by launching titles with "leisure" in their names.   

 The Inimitable Tempts You to Copy  

In theory, being copied could be seen as a form of flattery, indicating the brilliance of one's invention. In practice however, the stakes are high! In April 2004, a copycat appeared on the scene. The launch of the Freizeit Revue plagiarism "Freizeit Woche" provoked Reinhold G. Hubert, the Managing Director responsible at BurdaVerlag at the time, enormously. “Freizeit Woche", an imitation of Freizeit Revue, was launched as a joint venture between the Bauer and Klambt publishing houses, which had founded the "Freizeit Woche Verlagsgesellschaft" in Rastatt.   

Burda immediately countered this frontal attack on its flagship Freizeit Revue and - within a few hours - brought the magazine "Freizeit Spass" to the newsstands. Both copies, the competitor's "Freizeit Woche" and the company's "Freizeit Spass", subsequently achieved a paid circulation of 400,000 to 500,000 copies each. This immediate success allowed "Freizeit Spass" to effectively counter its competitor and put the brakes on "Freizeit Woche" right from the start.   

Heiko Engelhardt, now Managing Director of BurdaDruck, still remembers the fly-by-night campaign as if it happened yesterday. "I was in charge of production planning at the time and was also responsible for this coup. It was a super-fast operation. I think we were called to the media park by the management on Monday afternoon, where we were told about the ad hoc print job and then things really took off. And what can I say, on Wednesday morning the "Freizeit Spass" was on newsstands with a print run of one million copies. We organized the printing and special delivery within two hours. Senator Franz Burda once said 'We print anything' - in top quality at any time and always just in time," says Heiko with a chuckle.  

For a long time the circulation of the classic Freizeit Revue was largely unaffected by the new competitors and its market share remained stable. Naturally, other publishers began to wonder: if there is room in the market for three lucrative "Freizeit" (leisure) titles, why not produce more? Since the "Freizeit Spass" coup in 2004, a growing number of imitators have flooded the market, often with a monthly or bi-monthly publication frequency and significantly cheaper than the original in the mid-cent range. The battle for “leisure” readers at the kiosk took on bizarre proportions.    

"Since then, there were at times well over 30 Freizeit Revue plagiarisms on the market - from Freizeit heute, Freizeit genießen, Freizeit pur, Freizeit Illustrierte and Freizeit total to Neue Freizeit, Prima Freizeit, Schöne Freizeit, Super Freizeit or Meine Freizeit and many more”, says Senior Brand Manager Heike Rudolph. "The competition showed little creativity in the design of the titles, content or the logos, which are always blue and yellow or blue and white in the style of Freizeit Revue. There are currently still over 30 copies on newsstands. The quality of our original Freizeit Revue is still unmatched, even in today's shark tank of the segment and under the pressure of the general, massive decline in circulation in the magazine market, especially over the last ten years”, emphasizes Heike.   

So far, so good, but the question remains: why were other publishers able to blatantly copy the original without legal repercussions? Burda and Bauer/Klambt went to court back then to clarify this question - Freizeit Revue sued Freizeit Woche. However, the Munich Regional Court dismissed the suit, ruling that the word "Freizeit" was "strongly descriptive" and therefore not protectable. Burda did not appeal the decision. Conversely, a lawsuit by Bauer/Klambt (Freizeit Woche) against Burda (Freizeit Spass) was also dismissed by the court due to the likelihood of confusion - based on the distinguishing second word in the title. Thus, the magazine kiosk became the universally popular "Freizeit-Oase" (leisure oasis).  

Competition Spurs Growth and Keeps Businesses Alert!   

Thanks to the great teamwork of the entertainment editorial and brand management teams over the years BurdaVerlag is still ahead of the game with all of its "Freizeit" magazines. "Of course, the circulation of entertaining women's magazines is lower today than in the 80s and 90s, but Freizeit Revue has become the number one of all weekly women's magazines, even surpassing Bild der Frau in terms of total circulation”, emphasizes Editor-in-Chief Kai Winckler. "In addition, Freizeit Spass is now nipping at the heels of Freizeit Woche, which is boosting its circulation with regular bundle offers. We have strengthened our position in the broader competitive landscape of ‘Freizeit’ titles. Our three monthly ‘Freizeit’ magazines (Freizeit Exklusiv, Freizeit Post, Freizeit Aktuell) are performing well and bringing good money”, says Kai.  

"The fact that Burda spontaneously copied itself back in 2004 was a perfect strategic move”, says CPO Sven Dams. "With its market entry 20 years ago, Freizeit Spass ensured that the competition could be kept in check to a certain extent. And we will continue to do so," emphasizes Sven. Yesterday, the entire team celebrated this historic coup with sparkling wine and anniversary cake. Happy Birthday Freizeit Spass!


More images & downloads

The first issue of Freizeit Spass 2004 © HBM

Senator Franz Burda "We print Anything" © HBM

Die Women- und Entertainment-Redaktion läuft seit jeher gerade in Ausnahmesituationen zur Höchstform auf, wie 2004 mit dem Freizeit Spass-Coup. Hier Chefredakteur Kai Winckler (rechts) mit einem Teil seines Teams beispielsweise bei der Sonderschicht zur Krönung der britischen Königs Charles III © HBM

Torte für Alle! Ein fruchtig-cremig-süßer Freizeit Spass zur Jubiläumsfeier © HBM

Sven Dams, CPO BurdaVerlag, schneidet die Freizeit Spass-Jubiläumstorte feierlich an © HBM

Welches Freizeitheft hätten’s denn gern? Sich da als Original zu behaupten, ist schon keine leichte Übung. Die Freizeit Revue hat es seit 1970 all die Jahrzehnte geschafft, nicht zuletzt durch die Unterstützung des Schwester-Titels Freizeit Spass von 2004 © HBM

Senator Franz Burda 1970 mit der Erstausgabe der Freizeit und Rätsel Revue (heute Freizeit Revue) © HBM

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