SERRAVAL, FRANCE -- The two most respected newsweeklies in Germany, Der Spiegel and Die Zeit, are both based in Hamburg, and both were founded by icons of postwar journalism in Germany. But now their businesses seem to be headed in opposite directions.
This month, as Der Spiegel, a magazine, was firing its top two editors amid a long slump in circulation, Die Zeit, a newspaper, was celebrating record sales and big gains in advertising.
Their diverging fortunes underscore different approaches to news publishing in the digital era.
Der Spiegel has been the standard-bearer for investigative reporting in Germany since 1962, when its founder, Rudolf Augstein, prevailed in an important test of free speech for the still young Federal Republic of Germany. In the so-called Spiegel Affair, Mr. Augstein was arrested and accused of treason after the magazine published an exposé on the sorry state of German military readiness. The heavy-handed approach, orchestrated by the late Franz-Josef Strauss, then the defense minister, backfired, and Mr. Strauss was forced to resign.
Der Spiegel still prides itself on its adversarial tone. Last year, an advertising campaign for the magazine showed a picture of an editorial meeting, with the tag line, "the conference that makes politicians tremble."
But other German publications and media organizations -- broadsheets like Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich, mass-market dailies like Bild and public broadcasters like ARD and ZDF -- have begun to invest heavily in investigative reporting, and Der Spiegel no longer has a monopoly on scoops about political scandals.
"Der Spiegel is having a real problem finding a new road, when everyone is doing this kind of reporting," said Klaus Meier, a journalism professor at the Catholic University of Eichstätt.
Three weeks ago, Der Spiegel dismissed Georg Mascolo, the editor of its print edition, and Mathias Müller von Blumencron, editor of Spiegel Online. Eschewing the floral tributes that often accompany changes of management in the news business, Der Spiegel said tersely that the two had been "fired, with immediate effect, because of irreconcilable differences over strategic direction."
Insiders say Mr. Mascolo and Mr. von Blumencron had been cast aside because of an inability to work together on a plan to join the print and digital arms of Der Spiegel, which have been operating autonomously. Like other publications, Der Spiegel is looking for ways to generate more revenue online and wants to integrate its newsrooms before it begins charging readers for access to its Web site.
The backdrop to the management turmoil is a steep slide in sales of Der Spiegel. Circulation fell to 883,000 in the first quarter from more than 1 million as recently as 2009 and more than 1.1 million a decade ago. The number of advertising pages has fallen by half over the past decade.
The decline of Der Spiegel contrasts strikingly with the growth of Die Zeit. Since 2002, the newspaper's circulation has risen 22 percent, reaching a record of 520,000 in the first quarter of this year. Advertising revenue has increased 74 percent, and circulation revenue 58 percent in that period.
The performance is especially striking because two other weekly newsmagazines in Germany, Stern and Focus, have also lost circulation. While Der Spiegel and Die Zeit are not necessarily direct competitors, given their different publishing formats, they reach similar audiences of affluent, well- educated readers.
What has Die Zeit done differently? Investigative reporting has never been the leitmotif of the newspaper, which was founded after World War II by a group led by Gerd Bucerius, a lawyer and politician. Unlike Der Spiegel, it has cultivated links with the establishment; Helmut Schmidt, the former German chancellor, now serves as publisher.
Die Zeit was long known for its gray layout and long, serious, analytical articles. Not only was the paper written in a professorial style, it also had a near monopoly on classified advertising for academic posts -- a lucrative market in a country where everyone who is anyone has a doctorate in something or other.
But Die Zeit got more colorful -- both in its layout and its writing style -- after Giovanni di Lorenzo, a German-Italian journalist who also has a radio talk show, was named editor in 2004.
"Under Di Lorenzo, Die Zeit has been rebranded," said Steffen Burkhardt, a journalism professor at the University of Hamburg. "It walks the tightrope, appealing to intellectuals and celebrities."
Mr. Di Lorenzo's more populist approach has sometimes drawn flak. Two years ago, he wrote a book with Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who was one of the most popular politicians in Germany until he resigned his post as defense minister in 2011 after he was found to have plagiarized parts of his doctoral thesis. Mr. di Lorenzo later said that the book had been "a mistake that I regret."
But Rainer Esser, general manager of Zeit Verlag, the publishing house that owns the newspaper, makes no apologies for what he describes as an upbeat approach, saying this is the key to the newspaper's recent success. Five years ago Die Zeit added a glossy magazine, which has been popular with advertisers. A few weeks ago it added a page on soccer -- its first foray into sports reporting in several decades.
"We are not so interested by things in Germany that don't work," Mr. Esser said. "We are more interested in issues and subject matters and projects that do work."
While Die Zeit, which is owned by two arms of the Holtzbrinck publishing family, and Der Spiegel, which is controlled by its employees, have taken different approaches to journalism, they face a common challenge -- the Internet. Like many newspapers and magazines, they still earn only a small fraction of their revenue from their digital operations.
Analysts say developing a digital strategy has been complicated at both papers by the fact that the Web sites of Der Spiegel and Die Zeit are independent of the print operation; in the case of Die Zeit, the digital arm is even based in another city, Berlin.
Der Spiegel aims to integrate its operations, and the new editor will oversee both the print and online operations, according to a spokeswoman, Anja zum Hingst. But Mr. Esser said Die Zeit would maintain some separation, even if the print and online staffs increasingly coordinate on matters like story planning.
Wolfgang Blau, former editor of Zeit Online, said autonomy had its advantages, given the different news cycles for online and weekly print publishing. By giving the Web site a distinct identity and focusing more on news, he said, Die Zeit was able to reach different audiences online and in print, avoiding cannibalization of the newspaper.
"Integration might make sense for dailies, but we felt that we shouldn't buy into this narrative that we should merge just because we hadn't merged yet," said Mr. Blau, who recently left Zeit Online to become head of digital strategy at The Guardian in London.
Mr. Esser said there was another factor behind the success of Die Zeit. While many newspapers and magazines have been cutting jobs to cope with the crisis in print journalism, Die Zeit has invested heavily. Over the past decade, the editorial staff has grown to 200 from 120.
"At a time when most publishing houses have cut down their expenses in editorial and marketing, we have increased them," Mr. Esser said. "Our major focus has been on increasing investment, not on cutting costs."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.