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Paper marriage

Axel Springer has announced that it will merge its struggling Polish daily, Dziennik, with rival daily Gazeta Prawna.
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Gazeta Prawna is a title respected for its coverage of legal and financial news. Dziennik, meanwhile, was launched by Axel Springer in 2006 in an attempt to challenge market leader Gazeta Wyborcza. Market analysts see this move as the German publisher's way of discreetly exiting the Polish broadsheet market.

"This definitely looks like a move by Springer to retreat while keeping its face," Leszek Iwaszko, an analyst at KBC Securities, told Reuters.

The German publishing giant will take a 49 percent stake in Gazeta Prawna publisher Infor, with the merged title expected to launch this autumn. Citing an unnamed source, Reuters said that Axel Springer would pay less than E10 (zł.45) million for the stake.

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"This merger, in my opinion, is a chance to create something like a Polish version of the Financial Times," Professor Maciej Mrozowski of Warsaw University's Institute of Journalism told WBJ.

"This is a logical adaptation strategy, because the market for press is shrinking rapidly in Poland," he said. He also cited 2008 research which showed that around 50 percent of teens surveyed felt that traditional media could be abandoned, data which bode ill for the future of the market. Mrozowski noted that, "the only [demographic] in which interest in papers is strong includes managers, economists - people involved in business." Once the effects of the crisis begin to fade, demand for business and economic news is expected to continue to develop, he said.

Most national broadsheets have struggled in recent months, leading to layoffs and speculation of closures. Both Axel Springer and Infor have declined to comment on the possibility of job cuts at the two Polish broadsheets, whose combined staff totals more than 250.

E Blake Berry

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