Austrian print media is characterised by a small number of daily newspapers, a small number of large newspapers and magazines, a strong orientation towards boulevard newspapers and a high degree of concentration of ownership.
Daily newspapers are highly popular in Austria. In the first half of 2016, more than 2.77m copies (up from 2.4m copies in 2009) were printed every day for a population of some 8.6 million people (2015). This increase is explained by the success of the two daily freesheets Heute (620,000 copies daily) and Oesterreich (499,000), which were launched in 2004 and 2006 respectively, and survived the shakeout of several other freesheets at the regional level. The market-leading newspaper, Kronenzeitung, prints some 850,000 copies daily (down from 1m in 2009), of which some 750,000 copies are sold (source: OEAK).
Among newspapers with a cover price – thus excluding freesheets – the Kronenzeitung accounted in 2015 for 46 percent of the whole newspaper market. The remaining 54 percent of the market is distributed among 11 daily newspapers across the country. This number includes all local and regional daily papers, some of which sell fewer than 10,000 copies daily.
The latest substantial additions to the Austrian daily newspaper market goes back ten years to the free-sheet Heute in 2004 and a newspaper called Oesterreich (the German word for Austria) in 2006. Closing downs of newspapers happened more recently: In 2016, the newspaper Wirtschaftsblatt (23,500 copies), the only special-interest daily newspaper in Austria, closed down for economic reasons, in 2014 two secondary regional dailies, Salzburger Volkszeitung and Kärntner Tageszeitung closed down for the same reason.
National press and Regional press need to be distinguished. The former consists of seven titles published in the capital Vienna, including the two freesheets. Four of the seven titles are tabloid-style papers, while the remaining three titles (Presse, Standard, Wiener Zeitung) compete within the quality newspaper segment. Over the years, the resulting competition has improved the quality of these papers significantly. To the contrary, the three popular newspapers (Kronenzeitung, Heute, Oesterreich) are involved in a race to the bottom, rather than for accuracy, trustworthiness or seeking the truth. One daily newspaper is located somewhere between these two groups (Kurier).
The coverage of economic developments which had improved considerably since 1995 when the economic daily Wirtschaftsblatt was launched, suffered a setback when this paper was closed down in 2016. Based on the concept of the Swedish Dagens Industri with the strong initial financial backing of the Swedish Bonnier Group, the Austrian publisher Styria ran the paper from 2006 to 2016.
The Regional press is characterised by strong regional newspapers, dominating up to 90 percent of the regional market. With the exception of two provinces, each province (Bundesland) is dominated by just one regional publisher, typically controlling one or two newspapers. These secondary papers sell less than 10,000 copies each and are hardly profitable. But they help consolidate the regional market and prevent competition.
The strong position of the regional publishers is challenged only by the regional editions of the Kronenzeitung, which competes fiercely with the traditional press in these regional markets. In eight (out of nine) provinces, the Kronenzeitung has either taken the lead or is as strong as the respective regional paper.
In the past, German investment capital played a major role in the Austrian newspaper landscape. Without temporary investments from Axel Springer Verlag, WAZ (today: Funke), Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Bertelsmann (Gruner+Jahr) several newspaper and magazine launches would not have happened in the 1980s and 1990s. Almost all of these German publishers have pulled out of Austria, with the notable exception of the publishing group Funke, still holding 50 percent each of Kronenzeitung and Kurier. Gruner+Jahr, formerly controlling the News-Group, sold its shares to the newly appointed director general, Horst Pirker, in 2016.
This News-Group, named after its leading magazine News (115,000 copies per week in 2016), is almost entirely controlling the Austrian market for news magazines. It gained this control in 2000 after acquiring , among others, the competing news magazine Profil (67,000 copies per week in 2016). The acquisition established an unprecedented accumulation of media ownership, assembling practically all news magazines (News, Profil, Trend) and some 10 other magazines (among them Woman, TV-media, E-media) under the same entrepreneurial roof.
The daily press and television account for the largest shares of the advertising market in Austria (29 percent each). Based on calculations of the advertising tax statistics, the overall advertising market reached €2.15bn in 2015, virtually stagnant since 2006 (source: mediareports 2016). Online advertising is still small with a market share of some 7 percent (2015). This figure excludes advertising on Facebook and Google who do not disclose their figures for Austria.