Bauer Publishing Group History

Burchardstrasse 11 2000 Hamburg 1

Telephone: (40) 30 19 33 70
Fax: (40) 33 56 52

Private Company
Incorporated: 1875
Employees: 6,400
Sales: DM 2.8 billion; US&Dollar;1.714 billion
SICs: 2721 Periodicals: Publishing, or Publishing & Printing

Company History:

Bauer Publishing Group is the largest magazine publisher in Germany and one of the largest in Europe, offering a wide variety of light-information periodicals for a mainstream readership. Five of Germany's best-selling magazines are Bauer creations: TV Hören und Sehen, Fernsehwoche and Auf Einen Blick, all of which combine television guides with elements of women's and family magazines; Neue Post, which is targeted at older women, and Tina, which its publisher describes as a "classic women's magazine." In addition, Bauer publishes the German editions of Esquire and Playboy. As recently as 1988, the publisher was able to claim 42 percent of all magazines sold in West Germany. Bauer also publishes three magazines in the United States--Woman's World, First for Women and Soap Opera Update--and numerous magazines in other European countries, many of them foreign editors of its domestic staples. Bauer owns an extensive printing and distribution operation, making it a fully integrated publishing concern.

Bauer Publishing traces its origins back to 1875 when a young resident of Hamburg named Louis Bauer went into business as a printer, setting up shop in his home in Billhorner Roehrendamm and using a borrowed press. Bauer was a lithographer by training but, when he found himself out of work in the midst of an economic downturn, he decided to go into business for himself. This home-grown operation proved so successful that at the turn of the century, the payroll of Louis Bauer's print shop had grown from one to 20.

When Bauer's son Heinrich Bauer became a partner in the company in 1903, the family business began to branch out, acquiring a typesetting machine and a high-speed press and setting up a stationer's in the building next door. Soon after, the Bauers published their first periodical, a free advertising newspaper called Rothenburgsorter Zeitung. They added a second newspaper, Hammerbrooker Zeitung, shortly thereafter. The success of these two publishing ventures enabled the company to buy a new duotone printing press in 1913.

Heinrich Bauer's son Alfred joined the company in 1918, and it continued to grow and diversify in the interwar years. In 1920 the company began publishing Extrablatt am Montag, a weekly newspaper that eventually converted to a sports-only format. Three years later, now operating under the name Heinrich Bauer Buch-und-Verlagsdruckerei, the company moved to its current address on Burchardstrasse in Hamburg. In 1927 another weekly, Rundfunkkrtik (later renamed Funk-Wacht) made its debut and became the Bauer family's greatest success yet, achieving a circulation of more than 500,000.

The outbreak of World War II put a stop to the company's plans for further expansion. Patriarch Louis Bauer died in Hamburg in 1941 at the age of 90. After the war, Bauer Publishing, like the rest of the nation, found itself having to rebuild and remake itself. It proved quite adept at this task and quickly became one of the most prominent publishers of periodicals in West Germany. In 1948 Bauer began publishing the illustrated weekly Quick. In 1953 the company acquired a number of regional publications that served as guides to television programming and consolidated them into a national periodical named Hören und Sehen. In 1958 Bauer Publishing acquired Wiesbaden-based magazine publisher Schwabe-Verlag and its popular fashion magazine Neue Mode. Also during the 1950s, Bauer began publishing Fix und Foxi, a children's comic that would become a longtime German favorite. And in 1961 the company acquired Kurt Möller Verlag, publisher of Neue Post.

Also in 1961, 22-year-old Heinz Bauer, great-grandson of Louis Bauer, became the chief executive officer of the nascent Bauer publishing empire. This latest member of the Bauer clan to run the family business presented a combination of old ways and new: He studied business administration at a university, but like his predecessors, also apprenticed as a printer before joining the company.

Under Heinz Bauer, the company continued to expand during the 1960s. Bauer Publishing created its popular illustrated weekly, Neue Revue, by merging two magazines, Neue Illustrierteand Revue. Because circulation kept expanding, production capacity at the company's Hamburg printing facilities was exhausted by the end of the decade. As a consequence, the company expanded southward from its base in the Hanseatic north. It acquired Du Mont Press in Köln, which it renamed Bauer Druck Köln. By 1990 this facility was turning out 28 million copies per week on state-of-the-art equipment. Also, Bauer Publishing expanded its editorial facilities in Munich and demolished its old printing facilities in Hamburg to make way for a larger, more modern plant.

In the following decades, the company continued to grow. Two of its best-selling titles made their debut in the 1970s; Fernsehwoche appeared in 1970, followed by Tina in 1975. The 1980s saw Bauer Publishing expanding its horizons and looking to foreign markets for revenue growth. In 1981 it created an American subsidiary, Heinrich Bauer North America, based in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Bauer North America's first offering was a supermarket weekly called Woman's World. In 1987 Bauer Publishing created subsidiaries in Great Britain (Heinrich Bauer Publishing) and Spain (Bauer Ediciones); Heinrich Bauer Publishing launched Bella, a women's magazine along with the lines of Tina, while Bauer Ediciones came out with TV Plus, which attempted to duplicate Bauer's successful combination of television program information and homemaker/family-oriented light information. Also in 1987, Bauer Publishing began producing the West German edition of Esquire. The next year, the company chalked up two titles in France through its subsidiary there (Editions Bauer France), launching yet another TV guide/women's magazine, Aujord'hui Madame, and acquiring the popular fashion magazine Marie France.

Bauer North America achieved great success with the introduction of Women's World. Within ten years, the magazine drew a circulation of 1.5 million readers and was generating estimated annual revenues of &Dollar;15 million for the parent company. The success of Woman's World encouraged Bauer to take another plunge into the American market. In 1989 the company launched First for Women, which targeted homemakers with light information in a magazine format.

Unfortunately for Bauer, however, First for Women had more difficulty turning a profit than its predecessor. Some analysts claim that Bauer, in its rush to conquer unexplored territory, had neglected to learn how the American periodical business works. German mass circulation periodicals rely heavily on sales to readers to generate revenues, whereas in the United States circulation figures are simply held out as a lure for advertisers. (Advertising sales are what will turn a magazine profitable.) Bauer ran Woman's World and First for Women based on the German model. While this did not hurt Woman's World, it nearly crippled First for Women, which competed directly with two popular U.S. magazines, Woman's Day and Family Circle. Despite impressive circulation figures, First for Women lost money initially--some observers estimated the deficit at as much as &Dollar;60 million over its first two years--because of scanty advertisement sold at low rates.

Far from souring Bauer on the American market, however, this experience with First for Women simply provided a learning experience for solidifying its presence in the United States. In 1992 it entered the lucrative and growing field of covering daytime television serials when it acquired Soap Opera Update from the magazine's founders, Jerome and Angela Shapiro.

Bauer Publishing's expansion since the end of World War II has been impressive, and significant opportunities for future growth remain. The reunification of Germany in 1990 opened up a lucrative market for the entire West German publishing industry. Bauer and rivals Axel Springer, Gruner, Jahr and Burda jumped at the possibilities, each wasting little time in creating their own distribution networks and forming joint ventures with their eastern counterparts. The long-term winner of the circulation battles that were joined in eastern Germany in the early 1990s has yet to be determined. But, if its experience in West Germany, the rest of Western Europe and the United States is a good indication, Bauer Publishing Group would be a dangerous player to bet against.

Principal Subsidiaries: Heinrich Bauer Verteibs KG; Editions Bauer France; Heinrich Bauer North America, Inc.; Heinrich Bauer Publishing;; Bauer Ediciones S.C.

Further Reading:

  • Verlagsgruppe Bauer in Formation, Bauer Publishing Group, Hamburg, 1989.
  • Ynostroza, Roger, "Golden Age for German Magazines," Graphic Arts Monthly, April 1990.
  • Fabrikant, Geraldine, "Many Readers, Few Ads for Bauer," New York Times, May 22, 1991.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 7. St. James Press, 1993.