Market Power and Journalism

Market Position and Commercialization

The number of daily newspapers was 1331 in the United States in 2014 and 351 in Germany in 2015 (BDVZ 2015a; NAA 2015). Relative to the population, one daily served about 240,000 people in the United States and 230,000 people in Germany in print at that time. Standardizing print circulation relative to population shows that US daily newspapers have three-fifth the reach of German newspapers, which has to do with a stronger newspaper readership base in Germany (discussed below).

Overall newspaper circulation has decreased by 30 percent in Germany and 28 percent in the United States between 2000 and 2014 (BDVZ 2015b; NAA 2015), which means an average drop of about 500,000 print copies in Germany and about 1,000,000 in the United States per year. As one of my German informants pointed out, this annual drop in daily circulation was as if one Suddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) died each year. Similarly, an annual decrease of one million sold copies per day equals the death of two Washington Posts per year in the United States.

Despite similar drops in overall newspaper circulation, the German newspaper industry has not experienced as dramatic declines of revenue as in the United States. The reason is that US newspapers are more advertisement-driven and were hit harder by the recent economic crisis than German newspapers, which are more newspaper-sales-driven. In 2008, revenues were almost equally distributed on copy sales (49 percent) and advertisement (51 percent) in Germany (WAN 2010), while US newspapers generated a proportion of 87 percent through advertisement against 13 percent through copy sales (OECD 2010). Statistics suggest a dramatic decline in the advertising business, the result being that in 2013 US newspapers generated only 63 percent of their revenue through advertising and Germany 44 percent (BDZV 2013; NAA 2014).

A significant share of the effective circulation drop in Germany can be attributed to tabloid newspapers and Bild in particular, which lost 2 million (or 44 percent) of sold circulation between 1998 and 2012 (it was 4.6 million in 1998). National newspapers remained relatively stable during the same time period: SZ gained 2 percent, FAZ lost 8 percent, and the weekly Die Zeit gained 9 percent in circulation (IVW 2016).

As mentioned above, Germany traditionally has had a much stronger newspaper readership base for a long time. The newspaper market in Germany is segmented and relatively weakly competitive—with strong regional as well as ideological identities and many small, family-owned newspapers. Both regional and editorial divisions are associated with high reader loyalty (Esser and Bruggemann 2010). The reach of newspapers, which means daily exposure to the medium among the adult population, has decreased from 78 to 70 percent in Germany between 1999 and 2009. In the United States, the reach of newspapers decreased from 54 to 43 percent between 2001 and 2007 (WAN 2006, 2010). According to another statistic, in 2015, the reach of print newspapers was 64 percent in Germany compared to 45 percent in the United States (Statista 2016).11

Newspaper readers in Germany have not migrated to the internet as quickly as in the United States. In 2008, 57 percent of the US adult population read online newspapers compared to only 21 percent in Germany (Wunsch-Vincent 2010). A 2015 research report of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism suggests that Germany caught up: 60 percent of respondents in a representative survey reported they used online sources of news in the previous week, compared to 74 percent in the United States (Newman et al. 2015:52).12

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