At present, with 360 publishers, the German print media market is the largest in Europe, and ranked fifth in the world internationally after India, China, Japan and the United States. The freedom of the press is a key pillar of the German constitution and guaranteed, together with the freedom of reporting, under Article 5 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany. The press is referred to as a »fourth power«, combining the ability to shape public opinion with the watchdog function of reporting on and censuring the operations of government. These tasks, though, assume, an independent press with lively competition. It is in this context that the long on-going debate over the state regulation of the press market gains its particular importance.
Despite the special protection guaranteed by the constitution, the press is subject to free market mechanisms and constraints. Even though the print media market is regarded as an essential element in the formation of public opinion, the outlook is less than optimistic. This, though, applies first and foremost to printed newspapers which experienced a drop in circulation of over ten percent between 2010 and 2012. According to the Federation of German Newspaper Publishers (BDZV), sales dropped by three percent in 2012 over the previous year.
On the other hand, the constantly growing range of online editions now reach a larger readership than ever before. However, with a lack of profitable online business models as yet, this does not compensate for the print media losses from falling circulation and a decline in advertising income. Only major media groups, such as BURDA or AXEL SPRINGER, now generate a significant proportion of their turnover online. Springer, in particular, intends to expand its digital services.
Discussions are presently ongoing on how to stabilise the press media industry and preserve high-quality journalism. Given the constitutional guarantee of an independent press, the idea of organising print media along the lines of the foundation model in the United States tends to be viewed critically. Similarly, a variety of funding models are regarded as harbouring the danger of publishers being subjected to political influence. Policymakers have instead focused on promoting the appropriate conditions for the press media, for example by securing in antitrust law the press wholesaler distribution system which has proved itself over so many years. To date, thanks to this system, even small circulation print media are obtainable throughout Germany. In addition, this »Presse Grosso« system eases press mergers in the lower revenue segment, since it maintains product distribution, even if in a more compact form.
To launch new and experimental journalism projects that are not funded by the print publishing houses, there remains the option of raising the financing needed through crowdfunding portals. For example, KRAUTREPORTER.DE, which is based in Berlin, operates a crowdfunding platform specifically for journalists.
Since the early 2000s, there has been a steady growth in the number of outsourced editorial teams funded by the content they provide for various publications. Local newspapers in particular are in the vanguard of this development. This model, though, has met with very different responses. While print media publishers view it as the way forward for the industry, many journalists regard it as the death knell of high-quality journalism. However, there are also representatives on both sides who consider the synergies it generates as essential in preserving fair and balanced reporting.
In 2012, Berlin was home to around 1,900 businesses in the print media industry, nearly ten percent of all those in Germany. Press publishers and, in particular, AXEL SPRINGER VERLAG account for sales of just under 3 billion euros, the lion’s share of turnover. From 2009 to 2012, press market sales fell by over five percent, a decrease primarily due to the negative development for publishers (- 2 percent) and news agencies (- 36 percent). Press publishing turnover clearly suffered from shrinking circulation figures and the associated drop in advertising income. Although the number of newspaper and magazine publishers grew by 11 percent from 2009 to 2012, sales fell over the same period by ten percent.
After the Fall of the Wall and the decision to relocate the German capital to Berlin, the city’s print media market not only developed into one of the leading national markets, but also one of the most competitive. Aside from the AXEL SPRINGER VERLAG, Berlin is also home to the BERLINER VERLAG and the TAGESSPIEGEL VERLAG, which both publish Berlin-based newspapers. In total, eight daily newspapers, three with Sunday editions, are published in Berlin, together with 15 city magazines and nearly 80 advertising papers. In addition, numerous magazines for different specialist sectors are also published in the city. The daily newspapers appearing in Berlin include the BERLINER KURIER, BERLINER MORGENPOST, BERLINER ZEITUNG, B.Z., NEUES DEUTSCHLAND, TAGESSPIEGEL, TAZ and DIE WELT. The pressure of competition here has forced the publishers to introduce saving measures with a reach that even includes job cutting. Across the board, between 2012 and 2013, all main Berlin newspapers suf¬fered from a slump in circulation figures. For example, the BERLINER MORGENPOST circulation fell by nearly five percent, the BERLINER ZEITUNG by around nine percent and the TAGESSPIEGEL by almost six percent. The Berlin newspaper publishers are now increasingly turn ing to the model of an outsourced editorial team.
In Germany’s capital city, political and cultural events take place within an easily accessible area of the city. In particular, after the Bundestag and the seat of the Federal Government moved from Bonn to Berlin, representatives from over 50 regional, national and international newspapers, from The Times in London to the New York Times as well as news agencies and editorial offices, settled in the city. Today, Berlin is not only home to the offices of the GERMAN PRESS AGENCY dpa and the DAPD NEWS AGENCY but also dpp, but also to REUTERS, HSINHUA, the SAUDI ARABIA NEWS AGENCY, AGENCE FRANCE PRESS and many others.
These changes have also left their mark on the city’s urban development. Today the Südliche Friedrichstadt quarter around the southern end of Friedrichstrasse, once a traditional newspaper district in Imperial Germany, has become a multimedia location at the heart of Germany’s modern capital city. This area also houses the Federation of German Newspaper Publishers (BDZV), the Haus der Presse and the printing company DRUCKHAUS BERLIN MITTE. For Berlin, the digital business models applied by the major newspaper publishers offer both challenges and opportunities. Crucially, the online strategy needs to successfully integrate both the journalistic product’s credibility and its quality.