At work with: Christoph Amend, ZEITmagazin

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The weekly newspaper magazine has returned to prominence in recent years as publishers focus on weekend sales to support their daily operations. In Germany, ZEIT Magazin leads the pack creatively with its double-page front covers developed by editor-in-chief Christoph Amend and creative director Mirko Borsch. Christoph is also publisher of ZEIT’s art titles Weltkunst and Kunst und Auktionen, and has written several books. We join him as he plans next week’s magazine while awaiting delivery of this week’s edition.

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Where are you today?

Monday is my day for meetings. As the magazine’s editor, I travel a lot, but on Monday I’m always in our office in Berlin. All our weekly meetings take place on Monday: ‘jour fixes’ with the art department and our photo editors, with the deputy editor and the style director, and with our reporters. Plus I have a weekly meeting with the team of Weltkunst, DIE ZEIT’s art magazine. That’s my other job, I’m the publisher.

What can you see from the window?
If I turn to the right from my desk I see the Reichstag building with it’s famous glass ceiling by Sir Norman Foster, if I turn left I see the S-Bahn track between Bahnhof Friedrichstraße and Hackescher Markt.

Are you a morning or evening person?
To be honest with you, when I started to work as a journalist in my early 20s, I loved the idea of starting late and staying up late. But here I am, twenty years later, telling you that I don’t mind getting up early anymore. I even enjoy writing in the morning, when it’s still quiet in the office.

Which magazine do you first remember?
As 14-year-old kid growing up in a small village near Frankfurt, I subscribed to two magazines: one of was called Network Press, a magazine mainly for DJs. The other one was Tempo, a monthly that was a brilliant mix between The Face and Stern.

My parents were subscribers of business magazine Capital, which had a cool design at the time and, of course, of DIE ZEIT. I stole issues of ZEITmagazin when the postman delivered the newspaper on Thursdays.

What’s your favourite magazine this morning?
At around 10am this morning we’ll get the first copies of the new ZEITmagazin issue that’ll come out the Thursday with the newspaper. This week we have an exclusive cover story about a young actress playing a very famous historical figure and another story about one of the most famous books by German novelist Martin Walser. Sorry I can’t go into further details right now, because it’s only Monday!

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And of course I love New York Magazine, Le Monde’s M, the New York Time’s T and the NYT sunday magazine (can’t wait to see the redesign!), The Gentlewoman, Bon Appétit… on my desk right now are two fantastic covers from last week: Bloomberg Businessweeks ‘Ageing Abercrombie & Fitch’ story and Monopols ‘Gangster or Gallerist’ cover.

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Your double front covers are a signature part of ZEITmagazin, and a weekly highlight in our Twitter feed. Tell us how they started.
Oh, thank you, I’m blushing. Actually this happened more or less by accident. When we relaunched ZEITmagazin in 2007 we had to prepare a couple of fake cover stories for a quick internal presentation. We grabbed a couple of great photographs to come up with possible stories. There were two beautiful still lifes showing a balloon first pumped up and than popped on the second photo. So I said let’s do a story about the art market bubble: ‘When will it burst?’

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When we presented the different covers, everybody went crazy about the double cover. So we thought, why don’t we try this every week? In the beginning a lot of people told us that it would not work out every week, and for some people it was tough to get used to it. But here we are, seven years later, and the double cover concept has become a trademark.

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DIE ZEIT is based in Hamburg but creative director Mirko Borsche works in Munich. How do make a weekly magazine across such a distance?
Well, it’s even more complicated. DIE ZEIT is based in Hamburg, ZEITmagazin is based in Berlin, and Mirko is based in Munich. But then again: If you trust each other, if you love and respect each other’s talent, physical distances these days are not a problem anymore. Mirko has been our creative director for many years now, he and our art director Jasmin Müller-Stoy and her team work together very closely on a daily basis.

Mirko and I call this the best long-distance relationship you can have.

You’ve placed a new emphasis on digital with the relaunch of your website. Explain where the site sits in relation to the daily newspaper and the weekly magazine.
We have defined ZEITmagazin as the emotional part of the weekly paper DIE ZEIT, which is more analytical. And that’s the same relationship between ZEIT Online and ZEITmagazin Online.

We are happy to reach between 2 to 3 million visits per month with ZEITmagazin Online. Also, for a magazine like ours, which also functions as a sort of ‘gateway drug’ to the paper for younger readers, I believe it’s essential to have a digital platform, and of course a strong visibility on all social channels, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and tumblr. Lately we’ve started experimenting with Snapchat, let’s see where this will take us. So far it’s fun to play around with it.

What are you most looking forward to this week?
We are currently preparing the next issue of ZEITmagazin – The Berlin State Of Mind, our biannual international edition. The spring issue will come out at the end of March and will be distributed all over the world. This is always a tough, but very fascinating process, because we re-edit the best stories and spreads of the last months and translate them. It’s a moment of truth for what we do every wee – which story will make it into the international ‘Best of’ issue?

What are you least looking forward to this week?
The weather. Berlin is a great city in many ways, but in late January it’s always grey, wet and cold. We should definitely do a special issue in Los Angeles someday.

What will you be doing after this chat?
Joining the next meeting and trying to ignore to weather outside.

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Portrait of Christoph © Milena Carstens

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