Germany boasts more than 300 daily newspapers. But the industry is in crisis. Advertising revenues are collapsing and readers are increasingly turning to the Internet for their news. Are the days of printed newspapers numbered?
Publishing houses are under pressure - from the Internet. Newsrooms are half as big as they used to be. Since the year 2000, German newspapers have seen their circulation practically halved. Faced with this financial pressure, more and more print media are becoming digital. But online subscription numbers remain low, as only a minority of German readers are willing to pay for the privilege. President of the Federation of German Newspapers, Mathias Döpfner, says that the free press is increasingly at the mercy of Internet giants such as Facebook and Google: "The fact that more than 90 percent, sometimes up to 99 percent, of revenue growth for digital advertising today is accounted for by Google and Facebook demonstrates how distorted the market is,” he says. Ralf Bremer, spokesperson for Google Germany, argues that his employer is an "important partner” of the publishing houses: "We help with the marketing of advertising space on newspapers’ Websites. We pay out a lot of money in that area.” But Frank Lobigs, an economist who specializes in media, paints a different picture. Lobigs argues that it is unlikely publishing houses can successfully rebuild their advertising revenue, considering that Google and Facebook have much more user data at their disposal. "These two platforms are playing in the Champions League and regional newspapers are stuck in the lower leagues,” says Lobigs. The present situation, he argues, is leading to a "new media system.” Our documentary examines this "new media system”, and looks at the newspaper market in Germany, as well as in Norway and the US.