Die Welt was founded in Hamburg in 1946 by the British occupying forces, aiming to provide a "quality newspaper" modelled on The Times. It originally carried news and British-viewpoint editorial content, but from 1947 it adopted a policy of providing two leading articles on major questions, one British and one German.
The 1993 circulation of the paper was 209,677 copies. At its peak in the occupation period, it had a circulation of around a million.
The average circulation of Die Welt is currently about 180,000 (2016 ) and the paper can be obtained in more than 130 countries. Daily regional editions appear in Berlin and Hamburg, and in 2002 the paper experimented with a Bavarian edition. A daily regional supplement also appears in Bremen. The main editorial office is in Berlin, in conjunction with the Berliner Morgenpost.
Die Welt is the flagship newspaper of the Axel Springer publishing group. Its leading competitors are the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Frankfurter Rundschau. Financially, it has been a lossmaker for many years.
Die Welt was a founder member of the European Dailies Alliance, and has a longstanding co-operation with comparable daily newspapers from other countries, including the Daily Telegraph (UK), Le Figaro (France), and ABC (Spain).
The newspaper currently publishes a compact edition entitled Welt Kompakt, a 32-page cut-down version of the main broadsheet. Welt Kompakt has a fresher look and is targeted to a younger public. The paper does not appear on Sundays, but the linked publication Welt am Sonntag takes its place.
In November 2010, a redesign for the newspaper was launched, featuring a new logo with a dark blue globe, a reduced number of columns from seven to six, and typography based on the Freight typeface designed by Joshua Darden. Welt Kompakt was also redesigned to use that typeface. In 2009, the Sunday edition Welt am Sonntag was recognized as one of the "World’s Best-Designed Newspapers" by the Society for News Design, along with four other newspapers.
Since 1999, the Die Welt book supplement Die Literarische Welt ("The Literary World") has presented an annual €10,000 literature prize available to international authors. The award is in honor of Willy Haas who founded Die Literarische Welt in 1925.
- 1999 Bernhard Schlink
- 2000 Imre Kertész
- 2001 Pat Barker
- 2002 Leon de Winter
- 2003 Jeffrey Eugenides
- 2004 Amos Oz
- 2005 Yasmina Reza
- 2006 Rüdiger Safranski
- 2007 Daniel Kehlmann
- 2008 Hans Keilson
- 2009 Philip Roth
- 2010 Claude Lanzmann
- 2011 Albert Ostermaier
- 2012 Zeruya Shalev
- 2013 Jonathan Franzen
- 2014 Murakami Haruki
- 2015 Karl Ove Knausgård
- 2016 Zadie Smith
- Rudolf Küstermeier (1946–1953)
- Bernhard Menne (1950)
- Paul Bourdin (1950)
- Hans Scherer, Adalbert Worliczek, Adolf Helbig (1950–1952)
- Albert Komma (1952–1953)
- Hans Zehrer (1946 / 1953–1966)
- Herbert Kremp (1969–1985)
- Manfred Schell (1985–1992)
- Peter Gillies (1985–1988)/(1992–1995)
- Claus Jacobi (1993–1995)
- Thomas Löffelholz (1995–1998)
- Mathias Döpfner (1998–2000)
- Wolfram Weimer (2000–2002)
- Jan-Eric Peters (2002 – December 31, 2006)
- Thomas Schmid (January 1, 2007 – 2010)
- Jan-Eric Peters (since 2010)