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31. Januar 2007 | Die deutschen Zeitungen in Zahlen und Daten

The state-of-play of newspapers in Germany

Germany is a newspaper country. Each day 334 newspapers with 1529 local editions with a circulation of some 21 million copies reach their readers. On top of that there are weekly and Sunday newspapers with a circulation of almost 6 million copies. The German newspaper market is therefore the biggest in Europe and the fifth-biggest world-wide in terms of circulation.

What is of even greater importance, however, is that newspapers are not only bought but they are read as well. Just under three-fourths of the German population over the age of 14 (73,7%) read a newspaper on a regular basis, representing 47,9 million men and women. Women read more local and regional subscription newspapers in slightly greater numbers (63,2%) than men (62.0%). By contrast men use more purchased and national newspapers (25,9% and 7.2% respectively) than women (15,9% and 4.4% respectively).

With respect to age groups, the daily newspapers are traditionally more popular among readers between 40 and 69, i.e. between 76 and 84%. 83% of the over-seventies regularly take up a newspaper and almost 70% of the 30- to 39-nine-year-olds do so as well. Admittedly by comparison the younger age groups read newspapers on a decreasingly regular basis, yet the coverage is still high: 58,2% of those aged between 20 and 29 get their hands on newspapers, and that figure is just above 47% for those aged 14-19.

To awaken and sustain the interest of adolescents and young people in newspapers, numerous publishing houses have developed over 100 editorial offerings for young readers since the beginning in the nineties. Since then newspapers have for instance been publishing youth supplements with comprehensive events information or special youth pages and offered this target group tailored Internet activities. It is with this very link to interesting, on-line activities that publishing houses hope to acquaint the Internet generation with the printed press. In total German newspapers offer more than 600 editorial on-line offerings on the Internet.

The total turnover of newspapers from adverts, supplements and sales passed the 10-billion-euro-mark in 1999 for the first time. Turnover increased significantly once again in 2000 during the so-called boom year. Since then however newspapers have been hit by considerable losses particularly in the adverts and advertising markets as a consequence of the continuing bad economic situation in Germany: between 2001 and 2003, income from adverts and advertising shrunk by almost a third to figures that had not been recorded since 1989/1990. Only in 2004 were there minor signs of a recovery on the advert market: turnover totalled 8.995 billion euro. In 2005 turnover even scratched the 9 billion euro mark (9,036 euro), thanks to raised prices and therefore an increased income out of distribution. A return to the days back in 2000 when the rule of thumb was that adverts and advertising represented two-thirds and sales made up a third of the newspaper business cannot be expected. At present approximately 55% of revenue stems from the advertisement business and some 45% from sales.

It is not only the difficult economic situation that has caused these changes to the newspaper advert market. In the so-called classified adverts i.e. help-wanted, automobile and property adverts - which are very important to newspapers - the Internet plays a decisive role with its user-friendly search functions. Newspapers have spotted this and have created their own market places on the Internet. In doing so they not only work across publishing house lines with other newspaper companies, but also with providers from other sectors such a real estate companies, brokers or car dealerships. Here newspapers can offer what no Internet company can, namely the cross-linking of adverts in the printed press with the Internet, resulting in greater coverage.

Moreover some publishing houses have got to the stage of putting together new, printed products from the contents of their Internet offerings, bearing in mind that at present only about 60% of the German-speaking population over age 14 goes on-line either at work or privately on a regular basis.

With a market share of just under 24.4% of the total advertising market, newspapers are the biggest advertising mediums. They are followed by television (19.8%) and direct advertising (17.1%) as well as magazines (9%) and advertising papers ( 9.6%). With a 1.7% on-line offerings still have a slim share, however it continues to grow. Unlike many other countries in Europe, there are no free newspapers in Germany to date (at the time of publication of this brochure). Indeed foreign publishing houses such as Schibstedt ("20 Minuten") and Metro ("Metro") are showing repeated interest. Nonetheless German newspaper publishers firmly believe that editorial effort should not be given away for free. For when a reader decides to buy a specific newspaper, s(h)e is documenting his/her interest in very specific editorial content and level of quality. On the other hand it cannot be ignored that adolescents and young people, who are less and less about reading newspapers, come into contact with free newspapers more than above average. Hence perhaps there is some potential that has not been utilised to date.

Local/regional newspapers are typical for the German newspaper market. 254 titles (74%) have a daily circulation of fewer than 60,000 copies. Only 18 titles (5%) sell over 200,000 copies on a daily basis. 10 newspapers are sold nation-wide, among which 2 business newspapers and the German edition of the Turkish "Hürriyet". In the past decades there have only been a few success stories of newspaper start-ups, among which "taz - die tageszeitung" (Berlin, 1978) and "Financial Times Deutschland" (Hamburg, 2000). The weekly "Die Woche" (Hamburg, 1992) was discontinued.

In 2004 there was some movement in this generally quiet and "mature" market: alongside the "Welt", "Welt Kompakt", a national daily, was brought out that required somewhat less time and attention on the part the reader; the "Lausitzer Rundschau" from Cottbus and the "Saarbrücker Zeitung" both offer, in parallel with the "parent" paper, a tabloid version called "20 cent"; the entertaining business paper "News" was run from Frankfurt-am-Main, changed 2006 into a free office-only-version; there was "KStA-Direkt", an edition that came till its discontinuation at the end of 2006 with the "Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger". And the "Main-Post" from Würzburg makes it patently clear what the aim of its weekly started in 2004 in its title: "Boulevard Würzburg". They are all in the (half-) tabloid format, lesser-used in Germany up to now, and are considerably cheaper than their "parent" paper.

As opposed to Scandinavian countries or the UK, existing titles - aside from "Frankfurter Rundschau" having announced to go tabloid in summer 2007 - are not transferred from broadsheet to tabloid format, but new products in half-format are put on the market. These offerings have been devised to regain lost ground or to reach wholly new reader categories, especially among adolescents and young people.

In order to financially secure their core business the newspaper publishing houses have gone into other fields of business in the last few years. Private postal services, for instance, are being run by numerous media companies as competitors to Deutsche Post AG as a consequence of the easing of the postal monopoly. As a result of the integration of regional newspaper houses the sector is on course to being able to offer a private federal postal service. The market is supposed to be wholly open to competition from the year 2008, and publishing houses are doing some intensive preparatory work.

The introduction of additional products (such a book series, CDs, DVDs) that are sold along with the newspaper and its strong brand has been successful. It was the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" that set the trend in 2004. Other national papers like "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung", "Die Welt", "Handelsblatt", "Bild" and the weekly "Die Zeit" followed suit. Some regional papers also joined in the additional business openings with selected book series and collections. Last but not least the economic success of the newspaper sector also depends on political circumstances. There have been discussions in Germany about an amendment to press merger control provisions for the last three years. It can be expected that the Merkel government will put this subject back on the agenda. At the beginning of 2007 the value-added tax was increased from its heretofore level of 16% to 19% . However the reduced VAT rate on press products (7%) have not been raised, also thanks to the representations of the "Bundesverbands Deutscher Zeitungsverleger" (BDZV, The Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers).

What was certainly particular to Germany was the fight against tobacco advertising in the EU, which was also transposed into national law by the deadline in August 2005 and against which the Kohl Government and the subsequent Schröder Government lodged a complaint at the European Court of Justice. German newspaper publishers and other media associations find it really difficult to comprehend how products that are legally manufactured and sold cannot be legally advertised as well. In their view regulating advertising, be it for tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, confectionery or over-the-counter medicines, etc., using consumer protection as a reason is tantamount to serious encroachments to communication and with it to the freedom of the press.

What German newspaper publishers believe is downright preposterous in this context is the fact that advertising, that is clearly characterised as such, should be prohibited or limited by the European Commission, and that on the contrary the rules for product placement on television are going to be relaxed in the future. What is in the pipeline under concepts such as "liberalisation" or "deregulation" would consequently mean doing away with the clear-cut division between advertising and programme contents and subsequently a loss of credibility. The BDZV firmly believes that not only television but all other media would lose out with regulation.


By: Anja Pasquay pasquay(at)bdzv.de

State-of-play in 01/2007