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Crash of print media in Germany continues

The crash of print media in Germany continues. More than 80 percent of major titles lost buyers in the fourth quarter of 2018. Top titles lost readers in the double-digit percentage range. 

Published: January 20, 2019, 5:30 am

    It has been all downhill for print media in Germany. According to a recent analysis by an information company to determine the distribution of advertising in media, of the 100 magazines with the highest subscriptions available at the kiosk, only 19 were added in the previous year.

    Kiosk sales of Focus and and fake news weekly Spiegel have been reaching record lows.

    Big loser among the political weekly magazines is Stern, which lost 11.3 percent. In the nationwide daily and weekly newspapers especially Stern, Die Welt and Bild am Sonntag showed massive losses.

    The daily newspaper Die Welt plummeted by 11.7 percent. Bild also lost a massive amount of readers – almost ten percent. FAZ and taz lost slightly less, while Handelsblatt was able to gain digital customers.

    The circulation of the Berliner Zeitung today is just over 70 000, while four years ago it was still 120 912. The Berliner Kurier only sells just over 53 000 copies. Some smaller niche titles like Freitag and Das Parlament managed to win readers.

    Spiegel, Stern, Zeit and Focus wanted to conceal their circulation losses with an old trick: They only wanted to report numbers on sold copies every three months, but the ruse did not work because the advertising industry forced the to reveal real sales.

    Mainstream German magazines and weekly newspapers have been losing readers at record speed. Thanks to the advertising standards board, the  Informationsgemeinschaft zur Feststellung der Verbreitung von Werbeträgern (IVW), has tracked relevant industry figures. It means that interested parties can see at regular 7-day intervals, which titles have sold at the kiosk.

    The big publishers Spiegel , Gruner + Jahr (Stern), Hubert Burda (Focus) and Zeit Verlagsgruppe wanted to put a stop to that. From 2019 they wanted to report the current numbers of sold copies only once every three months and did not bother to disguise their true motives. There was even talk of “negative press coverage” that would scare off  potential advertisers.

    Publishers had previously given advertisers so-called conditional warranties. This means: If a magazine or newspaper does not reach the previously promised sales numbers, a refund is due. With the crisis of the print media in recent years, this has often happened.

    But the publishers apparently did not expect such a strong reaction from the advertising industry. The managing director of the organization of the media agencies (OMG), Klaus-Peter Schulz, sharply criticized the planned procedure of the media houses.

    The online service Meedia quoted him as saying: “The decision to abandon the reporting procedure for publishing issues could permanently damage the print genre.”

    Thus, in a joint press release last year, the three publishers said they heard “the loud and critical echo” from the market and from customers and apologised for “the confusion”.

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