The German print market is the largest in Europe and the fifth largest in the world. According to WNA-IFRA, Germany’s newspaper market is amongst the most stable in the world. The press is characterised by the broadest diversity of titles in Europe with, simultaneously, a very high publishing market concentration. Between the record-setting year 2000 and 2010 the total revenues of the press has decreased about 20 percent. Furthermore, advertising revenues between 2010 and 2016 dropped by about 60 percent, from €6.9bn to approximately €3.85bn.

The number of “independent editorial units” (meaning editorial entities that self-sufficiently produce all sections of a newspaper) has remained relatively constant during the last decade. According to Walter J. Schütz (2012), 130 independent editorial units could be counted in 2012. In fact, the number of newspaper titles summed 344 in 2016. If local editions of these papers are included, there are 1,528 different dailies with a run of about 16m copies per day. Of the 344 different dailies, seven are distributed nationwide (1.1m copies) and eight are sidewalk-sale papers (2.8m copies). In total, 329 local and regional subscription newspapers were published in 2016. Next to regional and local papers, the backbone of newspaper publishers are subscriptions, with about 11.3m papers delivered to households every day, compared to approximately 600,000 sidewalk sales.

In addition to daily newspapers, German readers can choose between 21 weekly papers with a circulation of 1.7m copies and seven Sunday papers with a circulation of 2.9m copies. According to the high interest in news, the weekly and Sunday papers reflect the editorial concept of the respective daily and mostly provide in-depth information or news that have the potential of setting the agenda for the coming week. The BILD am Sonntag (BamS) boasts the largest circulation, with about 964,000 copies sold in the first quarter of 2016. However, it has lost over 69,000 readers in one year alone. The weekly Die Zeit follows a liberal agenda and sold over 442,000 copies in the same year. It is the only weekly that could win new readers as compared to the previous year, according to Informationsgemeinschaft zur Feststellung der Verbreitung von Werbeträgern (the German Advertising Federation - IVW).

Since the early 1990s, the numbers and circulation of newspapers in Germany have shown signs of decline. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) gives one example for the long-term weaknesses of the weekly and Sunday-paper markets. With 252,253 copies sold in 2016, the paper is the fourth largest weekly. However, circulation has declined since 1998 by 148,054 copies, or 37 percent.

The shrinkage of the market during the last decades particularly holds true for the tabloid papers, such as the nationwide BILD. This paper exhibited a decline of 37 percent between 2000 and 2010, due to similar infotainment content being available online and elsewhere. However, the most read paper in 2015 is still the BILD (with 10m copies), followed by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (1.1m), the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (0.68m), Die Welt (0.67m), the Handelsblatt (0.42m) and Die Tageszeitung (0.2m), according to Arbeitsgemeinschaft Mediaanalyse (AGMA)

The total circulation of printed newspapers lost almost 11m copies between 2000 and 2016, according to Röper (2016). In fact, the total penetration of printed newspapers has fallen from 72.4 percent in 2008 to 63.6 percent in 2016, according to the recent Media Analysis of the Bund Deutscher Zeitungs Verleger ( Federation of German Newspaper Publishers – BDZV). Data about the figures per age cohort, unveil the demographic challenge that the publishing industry in Germany is facing: Whereas the penetration of printed papers amongst best-agers of 50 to 70 years-old is traditionally high (between 72 percent and 79 percent), the penetration among younger readers (20-29 years-old) decreased from 66 percent to 45 percent between 2001 and 2016. In the same period of time it dropped significantly in the youngest age group (14-19 years-old) from 55 percent to 31 percent. However, the young cohort of those 14-29 years-old shows the highest results in online-paper penetration (67 percent). The number of readers in the Internet is increasing, with about 63 percent or 44.7 million Germans reading an online newspaper. Furthermore, mobile aapps are used by 9.6 million users, ie to get informed by a publishing house on mobile devices in real time.

This shift from print to online news consumption unveils the upcoming long-term challenges of the newspaper market. Currently, the printed paper is still an important source of up-to-date information, right after broadcasting. However, the decline is rapid. While in 2015 45 percent of the average interviewees of the Reuters Digital News Report relied on newspapers or political print magazines, this only holds true for 36 percent in 2016. The newspaper industry currently feeds from those (older) readers, who grew up with printed newspapers-and everything they stand for. It seems unlikely that Internet-affiliated youngsters who are not so interested in socio-political news, might change their consumption habits when they grow up.

Accordingly, the total revenues for German dailies and weeklies have decreased between 2000 and 2012, from €10.8bn to €8.9bn. Additionally, revenues from advertising dropped about 60 percent between 2000 and 2016, from €6.6 to €2.6bn, according to Röper (2016).

Since 2008, a crisis year due to a major setback of revenues, concentration processes have accelerated. The digitisation drove a growing amount of advertisers away from print and into Internet-based media. According to the high market concentration, ten publishing companies reach a market penetration of approximately 60 percent. The five largest companies even acquired a market share of over 42 percent in 2016, whereas Axel Springer SE, a conglomerate focused on a digital market strategy and formed by horizontal, vertical, and diagonal concentration processes, has taken the lead.

Some of the newspapers run by the five largest publishing companies are outlined below:

  • Axel Springer SE: BILD, Bild am Sonntag, Die Welt, Welt am Sonntag, B.Z. (local), B.Z. am Sonntag (local).
  • Südwestdeutsche Medienholding: Süddeutsche Zeitung, Stuttgarter Zeitung (local), Stuttgarter Nachrichten (local), Bayrische Staatszeitung (local).
  • Funke Mediengruppe: Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung - WAZ (local), Berliner Morgenpost (local), Hamburger Abendblatt (local), Thüringer Allgemeine (local).
  • DuMont Schauberg: Berliner Zeitung (local), Express (local), Kölner Stadtanzeiger (local).
  • Madsack: Märkische Allgemeine (local), Hannoversche Allgemeine (local), Neue Pressse (local).

Local newspapers and local news play a major role in agenda setting in Germany (Reuters Digital News Report 2016). However, data on the number of subscribers unveil a downward trend, particular concerning the local press of the capital Berlin. In fact, the Berlin Tagesspiegel (Holtzbrinck Media) lost over 10 percent of its readers in 2016 and the tabloid B.Z. (Axel Springer SE) lost over 9 percent compared to the previous year, according to IVW.

Despite the traditionally-low political parallelism, some newspaper and magazine publishers pursue a specific editorial policy that reflects a political agenda, even if they do not have structural connections to political parties. One example is the publishing house Axel Springer SE, publisher of the most circulated tabloid, BILD. Journalists working in the company are bound by contract to its basic codes of conduct, which includes Israel’s right to exist and support of the liberal market economy.

After dailies and weeklies, periodicals and magazines are the next best-selling print genres in Germany. However, the total number of titles, about 20,000, is only an estimation, due to fluctuations forced by high figures of market entries and exits. Illustrated magazines and TV-programme journals are most read, followed by trade publications. Their number is estimated at over 1,500 titles by the Austrian media expert Heinz Pürer. However, this print segment also shows signs of decline. The total circulation of periodicals dropped from 124m in 2000 to 110m, by about 13 percent, in 2010. According to the Association of German Magazine Publishers (VDZ), 68 percent of the revenues stem from periodicals’ paid circulation, 14 percent from online business, and 18 percent from other sources such as secondary businesses. The net advertising revenues of magazines and periodicals summed €1.08bn in 2015. With a circulation of about 15m million in the first quarter of 2017, the most read journal is the monthly magazine ADAC Motorwelt, property of Germany’s biggest automobile club, ADAC. On the sixth position there is the largest political magazine, Der Spiegel, with a circulation of 6.79m; with its investigative journalism and specific style it represents the most influential political journal The most successful publishing houses for periodicals are Bauer (Hamburg), Burda (München, Offenbur, and Berlin), Axel Springer (Berlin and Hamburg), Gruner+Jahr (Hamburg) and WAZ Holding (Essen). These five players reached a periodical market share of 63.6 percent. However, smaller publishers can also enter the market via companies in the distribution system, the Pressegrosso, which guarantees a discrimination-free distribution of printed magazines.

With respect to the multicultural society, numerous target group newspapers and magazines are produced and sold in Germany. While most of them are still available in the mother tongues of the former guest workers, transcultural experiments, such as the bilingual newspaper supplement Perşembeh (2000-2002) for a younger post-migrant generation, were suspended, because lacking reader’s interest. The small, but nevertheless important, foreign-language market for (post-)migrants and diasporas has its tradition in various forms of immigration, mainly in the guest worker communities. These began to emerge in the 1960s due to the official guest worker recruitment in Southern European states like Italy and Turkey. Furthermore, the high figures of Eastern European and Russian repatriates invited to Germany in the 1990s created another segment of this market. The community with Turkish roots is the largest, according to official statistics of about 3 million citizens, or 4 percent of the population, being of Turkish descent. The Turkish-language paper with the largest circulation is the conservative Hürriyet. The Europe edition was produced near Frankfurt a. M. and had its first edition in 1971. The Russian-language target group alone comprises between 3.5 and 5 million potential readers in Germany and other German-speaking parts in Europe; it is served with over 50 daily titles and periodicals. The third segment is formed by mostly English-language print products that suit a globally interdependent economy.