In danger of being left behind? – Media narra­ti­ves of the digi­tal trans­for­ma­tion in the German Mittel­stand (2023)

Peer reviewed / Buchveröffentlichung


Has the Mittelstand lost its charisma? Based on a corpus of newspaper articles, we use a multi-dimensional approach combining content, framing, and metaphor analysis to expose how media report about the digital transformation in the German Mittelstand. In terms of contents, media focus on technical issues, narrowing down the scope of digital transformation. Articles with a main focus on digital transformation show a more positive tonality compared to those with a minor focus. We identified four distinct media narratives. The negative narrative portrays the Mittelstand as in need of help to master the digital transformation, with sickness and military metaphors underlining the negative assessment. The positive narrative reinforces narrow stereotypes of who is successful with digital transformation. The future-oriented narrative evokes a desirable but vague imagined future of digital transformation. The chance-challenge narrative is the only one portraying the Mittelstand both openly and implicitly as being capable of mastering the digital transformation, not least because this narrative also relies on external experts who provide a more varied picture. We contribute to the growing body of narrative entrepreneurship research by illustrating the various mechanisms media use to create a predominantly negative and sceptical assessment of the Mittelstand and its digital transformation.


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Schmid, Simone and Friederike Welter (2023): „In danger of being left behind? – Media narratives of the digital transformation in the German Mittelstand“, in: Entrepreneurship & Regional Development 36 (1–2), S. 98–114. DOI: