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Friday, September 09, 2005

Germany: Will free papers bring back young readers?

It seems that free papers will soon appear across Germany, reports Die Zeit, Germany's leading weekly newspaper. The Norwegian publisher Schibsted is said to be negotiating with German publishers. Negotiations with publisher Holtzbrinck were said to have been advancing but were recently stalled. The television channel RTL is thumbed as possible partner for promotional purposes. Rumors suggest that Schibsted already has an agreement with publisher Schleswig-Holsteinischer Zeitungsverlag about print facilities. Some say Schibsted will publish its free paper 20 Minutes before the football world championships next year at the latest, some even predict a launch in the next few weeks, reports Die Zeit.

Even without Schibsted and Metro the German market would be ready for a free paper because less and less young people read newspapers thinks Neven DuMont, chief executive of publisher DuMont Schauberg. He said in Die Zeit: "If we continue to loose readers in those target groups there will be no other way apart from a free paper."

On the contrary Michael Haller, media scientist at the University of Leipzig, said in Die Zeit: "People start to subscribe to a newspaper later today. While young people founded a family and also started subscribing to a newspaper at the age of 25 in the past, they now do that at the age of 35. People who do not read newspapers while they are young are not lost as readers forever." In his opinion publishers should rather invest in the quality of their papers. That would be the best measure against free papers.

However, German publishers are getting ready for the arrival of free papers. Springer is preparing (see previous posting) its own free title to lock others out of the market, because its tabloid Bild could suffer from the launch of free papers by other publishers. In the case that a free paper launches in Germany Springer is ready to start its own title in 8 to 15 cities and threatens to offer rock-bottom prices for advertising.

Also regional publishers are preparing for the launch of free papers. 8 to 12 publishers, led by Konstantin Neven DuMont are planning a request to the Federal Cartel Office. They want to know if it would be possible to publish a free paper in cooperation with each other. Each publisher would publish its own paper, but the title and the national and international news section would be the same. Also prices for advertisers would be equal in all papers.

Meanwhile free papers are expanding fast in other countries. Almost every week new freebies are launched: two weeks ago the bilingual 5 min in Riga (see previous posting), last week the free business daily City AM in London (see former posting) and next week Metro will launch in Dublin (see article).

Free papers have not yet been able to claim a stake in the German market. Metro tried to enter the German market once in 1999 when it published a Cologne edition. But German publishers DuMont Schauberg and Springer fought back by launching their own free titles in Cologne which they ceased just after Metro had quit the market in 2001.

Sources: Die Zeit, Netzeitung (in German)

Posted by Anna-Maria Mende on September 9, 2005 at 05:27 PM | Permalink


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