The free newspaper “20 Minutes” has overtaken the “Blick” tabloid to become the most popular daily in Switzerland.
A survey of the country’s newspapers placed Switzerland among the best-read countries in Europe, with 97 per cent of people reading at least one paper every day.
20 Minutes – the 30-page tabloid which carries Swiss and international news in short, easy-to-read articles – saw its readership grow 13 per cent last year, from 692,000 to 782,000, following a 40 per cent increase in the previous year.
It was followed by Blick with a readership of 736,000, and the “Tages-Anzeiger” with 573,000 readers.
The top-selling French language paper was “Le Matin” with 331,000 regular readers.
Readers are increasingly favouring papers which adopt a lighter format, said the Zurich-based media research firm, WEMF, which carried out the research.
"It's a matter of fact that the papers which have taken the new, more readable format are gaining readers and others are not," research director Harald Amschler told swissinfo on Monday.
The French-Swiss market leader, "Le Matin", went tabloid three years ago and picked up 36,000 readers in the past year, Amschler said.
In the newspaper tables, the tabloid marginally outdistanced the Swiss-German broadsheet, “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” (NZZ).
NZZ lost 25,000 readers in its German-speaking market, with its circulation falling to 329,000, the study found.
Blick goes tabloid
In recent months Blick has also gone tabloid. But Bernhard Weissberg, who oversees the newspaper division of Blick publisher Ringier, declined to comment on how that had affected circulation.
Weissberg told swissinfo that 20 Minutes could not be compared with the traditional dailies.
"It’s a free newspaper, so naturally it is read, but it’s very different from what we do. We draw a distinction between a free newspaper and a newspaper which offers depth.”
Analyst Roger Blum, director of the institute of media studies at University of Bern, said the success of 20 Minutes was remarkable for a paper that is only available in the German part of the country.
Blum attributed the popularity to the short format, which appeals to people who take trams and trains.
No French equivalent
"If there is no equivalent in French-speaking Switzerland, it is probably because people don't use public transport,“ he told swissinfo.
Blum added that 20 Minutes lacked regional coverage as well as in depth information. "The majority of people read something else as well.”
Le Matin spokesman Michel Danthe, of publisher Edipresse, said that, since going tabloid, the paper had been looking at putting out a free edition.
“But 20 Minuten is losing money. The day we see a balance sheet that shows it’s not in the red, I’ll call it a success.”
The study found that 97 per cent of people in Switzerland read at least one paper a day. Relative to other countries, that number is “incredibly high”, Amschler said.
"It’s one of the highest readership levels in all of Europe, which I think reflects the level of education and a high educational standard."
He added that more than 90 per cent of readers pay for their newspaper.
"Switzerland has a vital market with many competing newspapers,” he added, “and that tends to increase the amount that people read."
Daily papers in German-speaking Switzerland:
20 Minutes - 782,000 readers
Blick - 736,000
Tages-Anzeiger - 573, 000
Berner Zeitung - 426, 000
Le Matin - 331,000
24 Heures - 245,000
Tribune de Genève - 187,000
Le Temps - 142,000
Corriere del Ticino - 113,000
La Regione Ticino - 94,000
Giornale del Popolo - 63,000
According to the study, Switzerland is a land of readers: 97% read at least one newspaper and 94% also read magazines and periodicals.
Television magazines are growing in popularity and are read by 55% of the population.
Women's magazines are read by 24% and business magazines by 22%.