Wirtschaftsjournalist, Nr. 5, May 2006
At first, came the bitter disappointment: when I searched on Google for information on Cash daily, I ended up on the websites of two web-providers of classified ads (sell.com classifieds; kingdom classifieds) and at the media relations department of Swiss publisher Ringier where I found a months-old short announcement of CASHdaily – then still a project. On my way to work, there still was no sign of the newly launched daily. At the entrance of the university where my offices are, there was one free paper available to all economics students but, alas, it was the Wall Street Journal Europe. Simply stated, getting your hands on the latest issue of CASHdaily proved to be a bit of a challenge.
All the greater was my surprise, when I finally did manage to get hold of an issue, sporting that already promising subtitle, translating freely as “Good for brains and gains”. Incidentally, I also found out why I couldn’t find it on Google: Cashdaily in one word, no blank space, is your open sesame to the online-version (http://www.cash.ch/daily/).
Without a doubt, the paper is done well as compared to the business section of many local newspapers and even some larger ones. Thanks to its tabloid format, CASHdaily is equally well adjusted to the needs of all commuters, passengers and on-screen readers. Plus, being the very first daily business paper in Switzerland, it clearly targets a niche market. Compact as it is, it’s probably also ideally suited to all managers suffering from information-overload, as its small articles come across like all the other Executive Summaries they have to plough through on a daily basis: i.e. as small doses of easily processed information. The fact that something of that quality is handed out for free – in Switzerland, of all places – is indeed nothing short of a small miracle.
However, as is typical of business journalism, there is quite a fair bit of PR material to be found – without this really being disclosed to the reader. “Zara beats all sales records”, “Migros Ostschweiz sets new eco standards” – page 1 headlines like these make it seem unlikely that the “success stories” behind them are the result of hard-hitting, investigative journalism.
At the same time, one can also spot clear signs of journalistic panache, a certain readiness to jeopardise the goodwill of potential advertising clients: “Cablecom and Swiss Post low in service ranking”, is another headline on page 1, next to an article in which Assura, Carrefour, Denner, Orange and Winterthur Life, together with other big shots of the Swiss business world, are singled out as the lowest scorers in a customer satisfaction ranking. However, the old adage “no news is bad news” might play a role here, too, as the winners of said ranking are only introduced on page 2.
Judging from other headlines, rankings are currently in vogue. “Swiss economy is the world’s number one” is the uplifting message of an article covering the World Economic Forum’s annual report on the competitiveness of the world’s economies. Still on page 1, there is the news that economists Bruno Frey and Ernst Fehr, both from Zurich, outstrip by a wide margin their German colleagues in terms of research productivity – the only blemish of this heart-warming human interest story being the fact that it is based on a survey conducted by a competitor, business paper Handelsblatt. The next day’s headline, however, is less conducive to patriotic exuberance: “Foreigners are the better managers” – this is the headline of an article which reveals that 60 per cent of top management in Switzerland is recruited from other countries, aka abroad.
In a clever turn, the reporters manage to give a Swiss spin even to a report on the 30 per cent pay-rise managers at German industrial giant Siemens have recently awarded themselves. “Ackermann hands out millions again” is the headline this time, underscoring that it is the Swiss banker at the helm of Deutsche Bank who is currently fighting accusations of neglect of duty in court, and is responsible for aiding and abetting another round of shameless greed in the boardroom.
“Radar“ on the daily’s page 3 contains a section on recent statistics, facts and figures and economic forecasts, whose geographical focus is highlighted on a global map. Frankly, it’s a brilliant idea, but for the fact that even non-quantifiable material is turned into oh-so-precise numbers, casting some doubts on the seriousness of the whole concept. To indicate numerically the importance of a specific topic and the likelihood of certain statements about it being true or not is pure humbug, bringing to mind Winston Churchill’s famous quote about his believing only in those statistics he himself had falsified. In addition, the news that finally shows up on the map, literally, tends to come mostly from Europe, North America and, occasionally, Japan – reminding us daily of the fact that the rest of the world is still located beyond the reach of a Swiss (aka Western) readership.
There is a strong focus on reader benefit – although the usefulness of the information presented can often be called into question. As an example: the conundrum of which airline allows you to check in a bicycle are answered in detail on a whole page – but only 7 airlines are covered. What’s the point in telling a manager that for sports equipment there is an extra fare payable at Alitalia, when said manager might be actually interested in having a time-out in Spain or the United States?
Last but not least, CASHdaily, also has its fair share of “people journalism”, as can already be gleaned from the daily caricature provided by Swiss cartoonist Nico, who offers his funny version of the (business) “head of the day”. Granted, a welcome change to all the other heads many business papers are boring us with day in and day out. In CASHdaily, that business head is then exposed in one of the inner sections – and in an article portraying Roger Schawinski, the Swiss radio and private TV pioneer who is now in charge of German private broadcaster SAT 1, we are told that he reads his CASHdaily every day. A piece of self-promotion that obviously had to be included.
However, despite CASHdaily’s pluses, it seems unlikely that too many bankers, business leaders or economists will regularly hunt for their copy at their local newsagent – unless they happen to stumble upon it when buying their business papers, sweets or ciggies. But then again, maybe the free compact was never intended as more than an interim launch – perhaps nothing but the costly attempt of publisher Ringier to cause its annoying competitors Finanz und Wirtschaft and Handelszeitung, both weekly publications, to lose more readers, thus forcing them, by offering the public a free alternative, to finally throw in the towel.
Wirtschaftsjournalist 05/2006, p. 38-39
Translation: Oliver Heinemann