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German Publisher's "Fakt" Enters Polish Newspaper Market

August 10, 2004

German publisher Axel Springer Verlag kicked off a new mass circulation daily tabloid in Poland. The Polish newspaper landscape doesn't yet know what to make of the new, well-endowed competition.

A bold new presence at Polish newsstands

With an initial print run of 700,000, the tabloid Fakt went on sale in Polish newspaper stands on Wednesday for the price of 1 zloty (€0.22 / $0.25), less than any other Polish daily. Sales had exceeded all expectations, the German publisher said, despite problems delivering papers to the capital, Warsaw. The 70,000 papers were printed in Berlin for lack of sufficient printing facilities in Poland and were flown into Warsaw seven hours late.

In the run-up to its publication, the Polish arm of the publishing company, Axel Springer Polska, ran an eye-catching campaign of billboards and commercials to herald the launch of Fakt. Editor in chief Gregorz Jankowski, formerly deputy head at Newsweek's polish edition, also published by Axel Springer Verlag, has said the paper will combine serious journalism with human interest topics, consumer affairs and sports stories.

The new paper reportedly has an advertising budget of around $20 million to back it up, more than any of its competitors.

Axel Springer Verlag, the publisher of Europe's biggest daily paper, Bild, has said from an initial run of 200,000 issues, it plans to increase circulation to 300,000 in three to five years. It hopes to start making a profit within five to eight years.

Polish market leader Gazeta Wyborcza, with a print run of 420,000, has not decided how to react to the new competitor, although publisher Agora and editorial staff have already begun debating changes to the publication and examined or abandoned several new projects. Apparently concerned that Fakt would snap up readers looking for the mixture of serious news and lighter topics, the country's best-selling tabloid, SuperExpress, in second place in the newspaper market, attracted attention by publishing a critical overview of Poland's engagement in Iraq along with its regular tabloid fare.

A German media colony

Polen Deutschlandbild Zeitschrift Coverbild
A controversial cover of the Polish weekly "Wprost" showing German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Erika Steinbach, head of the Federation of German Expellees, dressed as a Nazi officer in a photo montage, pictured on Sept. 19, 2003.Image: AP

The weekly magazine Wprost readied Poland for Fakt by reporting on German investment in the country, which it said had already become a "German media colony." It said that freedom of thought and objectivity in the press was threatened, the news agency DPA reported. Wprost recently stirred controversy by printing a cover that had German politician Erika Steinbach, who advocates constructing a monument in Berlin to Germans driven out of Eastern Europe after World War Two, dressed in an Nazi SS uniform riding on the back of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder on all fours.

Springer is already the biggest publisher in Poland and puts out 33 percent of the country's publications, all of which have been magazines up to now.

Ausschnitt aus dem Fakt - Titelblatt vom 22.10.03
The first cover of "Fakt" on Oct. 22, 2003

Although editor in chief Jankowski has said Fakt will not echo Bild's successful combination of "sensation, blood and sperm," the first issue seemed to contradict his words. The tile page attracted readers with a picture of Polish-German boxing world champion Dariusz Michalczewski and his bare-chested girlfriend. An article about health care system reform in Poland entitled "Must I die because I'm poor?" recounted the plight of a 59-year-old cancer patient.

Analysts have predicted Fakt could do well in Poland, where only 60 percent of the population regularly reads daily newspapers.