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Free newspaper sees circulation soar

“20 minutes” is Switzerland’s second-most popular newspaper Keystone

The free newspaper, “20 Minutes”, has increased its circulation by almost 40 per cent in a year, becoming one of the most popular dailies in Switzerland.

This content was published on September 9, 2003 - 08:04

The 30-page tabloid, which carries Swiss and international news in short, easy-to-read articles, has seen its readership rocket from 526,000 to 720,000.

Launched in December 1999, 20 Minutes is now the second-biggest newspaper after the German-language tabloid, “Blick”, which pulled in 746,000 readers - up 12,000 on 2002.

Its success is all the more remarkable since it is only available in the German-speaking part of the country.

“20 Minutes has a classical tabloid format and its success is part of a ‘boulevardising’ trend in media - so it fits well into the market,” said Professor Gabriele Siegert, head of media economics at the University of Zurich’s Institute for Journalism and Media Research.

It had been feared that the arrival of free papers in Switzerland would lead to falling circulation for the country’s established dailies.

But figures released on Monday by a Zurich-based advertising media research firm reveal that last year was generally a good one for the industry.

“The results show that Swiss readers can combine the reading of two newspapers – a serious one at home with a tabloid,” Siegert told swissinfo.

“It’s a good sign because it shows that young people are not exchanging one newspaper for the other. In Switzerland, there is still a lot of interest in getting serious information.”

Rise in readership

The French-language newspapers, “24 Heures” and “Le Matin”, experienced slight growth, but it was overwhelmingly the German-language newspapers that saw a significant increase in readers.

The “Berner Zeitung” led the field with a 12.5 per cent increase in readership, hitting a circulation of 341,000.

Zurich’s “Tages-Anzeiger”, which boasts the third-largest circulation in the country, saw its readership increase by 28,000 to 559,000. The newspaper made a loss in 2001 and 2002.

Both the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) and the Neue Luzerner Zeitung saw circulation grow by around ten per cent.

However, Siegert warned that while many Swiss broadsheet newspapers appeared to be doing well, they might suffer financially in the long-term.

“The classical newspapers will lose subscriptions because they have mostly elderly readers who subscribe,” she said.

“There is a danger they won’t be replaced by young readers – the ones who draw advertising – if young people decide to only read free newspapers.”

Advertising revenue

The free paper’s success also means other newspapers are losing advertising revenue.

“20 Minutes has been successful because of its advertising [power]. The number of advertisers in Switzerland must now be shared and this new tabloid is taking up part of the others’ revenue. It finances itself completely through advertising in order to be free.”

In the battle for Sunday supremacy, the “SonntagsBlick” remained firmly out in front with over a million readers.

It was followed by the “SonntagsZeitung” (813,000) and the 18-month-old “NZZ an Sonntag”, which enjoyed a circulation of close to half a million Swiss readers.

One of the few blips came in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, where the “Corriere del Ticino” dropped around 5,000 readers for a circulation of 113,000.

swissinfo, Tania Peitzker

Key facts

The Swiss newspaper industry has experienced positive growth as a whole.
The free newspaper, 20 Minutes, gained a massive increase in readers – up almost 200,000.
The broadsheets, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Berner Zeitung, Neue Luzerner Zeitung and the Tages-Anzeiger, also enjoyed increases in circulation.

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