The increase of Internet usage from 7 percent in 1997 to 91 percent in 2015 clearly demonstrates the main features of online media. The use of digital news platforms as an information source has grown rapidly. In addition, growing entrepreneurial convergence and commercialisation of the digital media business have led to an increase in the ownership concentration and a declining diversity of online news.
These investments in online news are made primarily by media companies that are already dominant in the print, radio and TV markets. At the expense of medium and small scale companies, the private commercial media companies and the public service provider SRG SSR are expanding their strong positions also in the online-news market. Looking at the broadest range of journalistic offers, the online-news formats of the most resource-rich publishing houses of Tamedia, Ringier, NZZ Group and SRG SSR are in front. Tamedia also controls about two thirds of the information offer in the online-news market in western Switzerland (Vogler 2016: 48). In the German-speaking part of Switzerland, SBC has a market share of 16 percent with its Srf.ch platform. The largest readership has the news site of the freesheet 20 minutes, followed by Blick.ch, Srf.ch, Bluewin.ch, Tagesanzeiger.ch and Nzz.ch.
In addition, since 1999, the SBC has provided the news platform Swissinfo.ch. This online service has to fulfil the federal government’s mandate to distribute information about Switzerland internationally, supplementing the online offerings of the radio and television stations of the SBC. Today, the international service is directed to an international audience interested in Switzerland, as well as to Swiss citizens living abroad. The online service offers a Swiss view of topics and highlights, Swiss positions on international events and developments, while reflecting the view of Switzerland from abroad. Swissinfo.ch focuses on politics, business, culture, society and research and also provides specific information for the Swiss abroad to assist them in exercising their political rights in Switzerland. The service is available in 10 languages: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Arabic and Japanese.
Especially the online news sites of the freesheet 20 minutes and the tabloid newspaper Blick enjoy growing popularity. However, user growth is stagnating for high-quality news platforms such as Nzz.ch, Tagesanzeiger.ch or Letemps.ch. The intensified cooperation within and between media companies and online-platforms homogenise the daily news output. According to Schranz et al (2017) the online offer of Tagesanzeiger.ch dominates all group-based and "paid" online-news platforms. The online content of the Neue Luzerner Zeitung and of the St. Galler Tagblatt are also highly influenced by the online news supply of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
Since a pronounced free-of-charge culture prevails in the online news business, the financial basis of information journalism as a whole is declining, which greatly increases the risks of an increase in "cheap journalism". Vogler (2016: 42) sees a concrete threat to the central functions of journalism. In any case, online-news platforms without a strong stand in the print business tend to stagnate or show an even declining use and reach. This is especially true for e-mail service providers who have daily news and information on their websites (eg Gmx.ch, Bluewin.ch and Msn.ch).
Also, journalistic independent news outlets in the online area, such as Watson.ch, Infosperber.ch, Journal21.ch or Tageswoche.ch are most likely to survive as niche products with a relatively small reach (Schranz et al 2017). Online newspapers or news websites like Huffington Post, Buzzfeed or Vice are not very popular in Switzerland (Reuters 2016).
In general, the advertising revenues remain relatively modest. In the online market, the major networks such as Facebook and Google, as well as online marketplaces and directories such as Homegate.ch, Search.ch, Jobs.ch and Autoscout.ch dominate (see Vogler 2016: 42). Even if publishing companies are involved in such undertakings the consequent commercialisation of the online news market leads to a thinning out of viable and relevant news journalism. The widespread hope that digitisation has a positive effect on the diversity of providers has not yet been confirmed. Only news platforms, which are made with high investments, such as 20minuten.ch or Blick.ch, seem to be successful (see Vogler 2016: 45).