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At 75, Russmedia’s VN shows it’s more than just a newspaper

By Mirijam Haller

Vorarlberger Nachrichten (VN)

Schwarzach, Vorarlberg, Austria

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Newspapers date back to Johannes Gutenberg, where with the invention of movable types, he revolutionised printing in the 15th century. Even today, the address of Russmedia’s headquarters recalls him: Vorarlberger Nachrichten (VN) is produced in the building at Gutenbergstrasse 1 in Schwarzach, Austria.

However, even newspapers are subject to change. And for its 75th anniversary, VN published a 56-page special supplement to show readers what this change has looked like.

The special issue celebrated some of the many milestones of the past 75 years.
The special issue celebrated some of the many milestones of the past 75 years.

With this special issue, we were able to emphasise four things to readers:

1. The power of tradition

Today, every reader takes for granted something that was a sensation 27 years ago, when VN became the world’s first daily newspaper that was printed in four colors throughout. The printing center in Schwarzach was on international display overnight.

To this day, VN is regarded as a driver of innovation in the industry. Infographics made their debut in Europe as early as 1987, and newspaper production was consistently digitalised. One year later, the company switched from letterpress to offset printing. The printing press, which has been further developed in automatisation over the years, is still running today.

Many of Vorarlberg's most well-known residents congratulated the VN on its anniversary.
Many of Vorarlberg's most well-known residents congratulated the VN on its anniversary.

2. The power of innovation

In addition to technological innovations, VN also focused on layout and design at an early stage. Internationally renowned newspaper designers from the United States developed a new newspaper in 1989 based on the model of USA Today. The design followed new, modern reading trends, and the graphics and visual language have continued to evolve.

With these innovations, VN remained in the international showcase. At the World Newspaper Congress in Moscow in 2006, it was named the distinguished newspaper of the year, with the jury taking note of VN’s quality journalism, profitability, and innovative power.

VN's platforms have changed over time and it no longer exists only on paper. Since 2020, the news is also presented in the studio.
VN's platforms have changed over time and it no longer exists only on paper. Since 2020, the news is also presented in the studio.

3. Changes in platforms

VN has become much more than “just” a newspaper. Since around 1970, for example, it has awarded the annual Dr. Toni Russ Prize to personalities who set positive examples for the people and the country.

A three-day reading festival for children, called Buch am Bach (Book by the river), and an annual event for senior citizens from all nursing homes in Vorarlberg on Lake Constance called Russ-Ausfahrt are other ways to include all members of the community. An economic forum provides a platform for approximately 600 leaders from the regional economy and politics. For the readers and their concerns, the VN regulars’ tables provide the opportunity to interact with politicians and top officials.

 During the corona crisis, the VN launched the initiative #vorarlberghältzusammen (#vorarlbergstickstogether) and several related activities within a short period of time. For example, in mid-March of 2020, a call was made for country-wide neighbourhood aid and 1,300 individuals came forward. Since the situation is particularly challenging for families, a special page for children is presented daily or sports exercises are offered for the time at home.

The campaign also sets important priorities for the local economy: Companies are offered free announcements of their delivery as well as an overview of regional online stores so that customers are reached during the crises.

4. Navigating the future

The course for the future has long been set and the way information reaches the readership is changing. VN no longer presents itself exclusively on paper, but also digitally via the first premium portal in the region, VN.at, which went online in March 2019.

For now, the VN staff works remotely from home.
For now, the VN staff works remotely from home.

With this change, the way VN editors work has also changed. Today, they are multi-media all-rounders. Thus, notepads and pens have been replaced with laptops and smartphones.

In addition to the latest stories, subscribers receive exclusive content, such as the daily live broadcast Vorarlberg Live, soccer matches from the VN.at Elite League, interview video formats, live broadcasts of press conferences, and long versions of print stories, as well as additional image material. With VN.at, the newspaper’s local journalism has now even found its way to the smartphone.

About Mirijam Haller

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