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21. August 2008 | Die deutschen Zeitungen in Zahlen und Daten

“Turning Children into Readers” - A short introduction into the German newspaper market for children

Activation How publishers try to catch secondary growth.

turningThere have never been as many different and high-quality newspaper offers for children as there are in Germany today. This includes educationally motivated projects to promote reading and language skills in schools and pre-schools as well as editorial content offers. For the past two to three years, publishers have been offering new ideas targeting the youngest of readers on an almost monthly basis, from Flensburg to Tuebingen and from Dusseldorf to Erfurt.

In line with the basic structure of the German newspaper market these are offered by local/regional newspapers. Currently, there is no nationwide daily newspaper for children. This is surprising in view of the fact that Germany always receives the highest ratings for its daily press in international comparisons – according to its circulation numbers, the German newspaper market is Europe’s largest and the fi fth largest worldwide. More than two-thirds (73.2 percent) of the population over 14 years of age regularly read newspapers. Newspapers are perceived as the most credible type of media, and the already high printing quality is continuously being improved.




Good customers

One regularly cited reason for the failure or absence of newspaper projects for children is the lack of advertising revenue. The printed daily press rarely perceives children as consumers although children actually have considerable amounts of money at their disposal. According to KidsVA (a German consumer analysis), 6- to 13-year olds in Germany in 2007 possessed more than Euro 1,000 on average, and they spent approximately Euro 1.5 billion in pocket money.

Apparently, the situation in the United Kingdom is just as favourable – Ernest Henry, founder and publisher of “Oink!” (a business newspaper for children established in 2006), says, “children know about money.” Henry focuses on fi nancial topics, the handling of money and – last but not least – spending money. His twelve-page, colourful monthly newspaper, which is printed on salmon-pink paper, has a circulation of several 100,000 copies and is distributed free of charge. “Oink” is funded exclusively by advertising and product promotion. Adamant advocates of the separation of editorial content and advertising should, however, turn a blind eye to this fact. On the other hand, the weekly newspaper “First News”, launched in May 2006 in London, is aimed particularly at attracting young readers to newspapers. Published in tabloid format by Piers Morgan, the paper addresses children aged nine to twelve, and a subscription to it costs £12.15 quarterly. With approximately 760,000 young readers per week, “First News” claimed to be the children’s publication with the greatest reach in the country in 2007.



Kids’ papers

In Germany, a few new publications were also launched. The fi rst to brave the market was the Turkish publisher Turgay Yagan who launched “Meine Zeitung” in Dusseldorf in May 2005. However, the project failed within a few months due to lack of funding. One year later, the Verband Deutscher Lokalzeitungen Berlin (VDL – Association of German Local Newspapers) created a monthly supplement for 6- to 12-year olds. Initially only offered as a service for its members, the “Kinder- Zeitung” is currently marketed nationwide. An agency writes the contents of the 16-page tabloidformat “Kinder-Zeitung”, and the 13 participating publishers must print and market it themselves.

Thanks to data transfer and printing on location, the VDL does not have to worry about marketing the printed products across Germany – a problem generally faced by any publication with national ambitions. Publishers without a national sales structure must either enter into cooperation with regional partners, sell their products individually at kiosks and through wholesalers or send the daily children’s newspaper to its recipients by post.

The latter approach has been adopted, for example, by the French company Play Bac Presse, publisher of the successful children and youth publications “Quoti” “Le Petit Quotidien”, “Mon Quotidien” and “L’actu” since 1995. The newspapers address 5- to 17-year olds and ideally accompany children from pre-school to the Baccalauréat. However, this system cannot be directly compared to Germany’s, as the dispatch of newspapers by post continues to be heavily subsidized in France and costs about a quarter of the amount a German publisher must pay for the transport of comparable objects.

Play Bac produces contents that are not just fun and games, but “real” news for children. This approach has also become the established standard in Germany. Topics are largely the same as for adults, there are no taboos in terms of content and the only limitation is on the use of graphic photos. The fi rst newspaper to publish a daily news page for children was the “Hellweger Anzeiger” in Unna in 2006. The experiment was successful, and today, the entrepreneurial courage of the local newspaper has paid off in stabilized circulation. Around a dozen other publishers were inspired by this success and introduced entire daily pages of children’s news, often situated in a prominent position in the newspaper. This was most recently seen in the “Neue Ruhr/Rhein Zeitung” in Essen in March 2008. The editorial boards do not even have to do all the work themselves: in April 2007, the dpa started to provide articles, photos and illustrations as well as web animations created by a dedicated children’s news editorial team. The regular children’s press conferences conducted by the “Braunschweiger Zeitung” are also setting an example worth following – even the prime minister of Lower Saxony was thoroughly grilled by young readers at the press conference prior to the most recent state parliament election.

Even the normal daily newspaper, whether printed or online, offers plenty of comprehensible and interesting reading material for primary and junior school children if they are properly introduced to it by parents, siblings, friends or teachers. Projects by newspapers that promote reading apply this fact successfully in the classroom. According to a recent survey by the Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers (BDZV), approximately 900,000 children and youths were exposed to “their” newspaper for several weeks in the school year 2007/2008.

Even beginning readers do not need to fear picking up the newspaper. Actually, pre-school children can learn from newspapers by playing, as evidenced in the “newspaper at pre-schools” project initiated by the Bauer publishing house. First applied in Marl, today it is successfully implemented from Hanover to Constance. This is yet another of many remarkable trendsetting German newspaper projects meant to turn children into readers.


Anja Pasquay

Spokeswoman German

Newspaper Publishers

Association (BDZV).

E-mail: pasquay(at)bdzv.de