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Media landscape News junkies shun papers for pixels

More and more Swiss are getting their news online

(Keystone)

Swiss print media are continuing to lose readers to the internet, with the most drastic drop seen in newspapers and economic publications. However, a few local newspapers and niche magazines are bucking the trend. 

None of the large or medium-sized news publications managed to increase readership, according to a study carried out by WEMF/REMP, an advertising media research company. 

Among the German-language papers Die Südostschweiz lost 32% of readers, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung 11%, the Tages-Anzeiger 6% and Blick 5%. Among the weeklies, Beobachter was down 8%, Schweizer Illustrierte 11%, Handelszeitung 22% and Die Weltwoche 8%. 

Among the French-language titles, the Tribune de Genève lost 9% of readers, Le Temps 8%, L’Hebdo 14% and L’Express 15%. 

The most-read newspaper remains the free-sheet 20 Minuten/20 Minutes/20 Minuti, which reaches more than two million Swiss (1.54 million in German, 540,000 in French, 89,000 in Italian). However, this too saw readership fall by 2% in the German-speaking part of the country and 4% in the French-speaking part, although the Italian version increased readership by 9%. 

In absolute numbers, the Migros-Magazin, the publication of the supermarket giant, saw the greatest reader exodus: 109,000. But since it still reaches almost 2.4 million people, the 5% drop isn’t as bad as it first appears. 

Online effect 

Although there are many reasons for these dwindling figures, the main one is news being available online, according to Heinz Bonfadelli from the Institute of Mass Communication and Media Researchexternal link at the University of Zurich. 

The use of mobile phones, tablets or PCs is increasingly noticeable and widespread in urban areas, he said. “This means that the core group of quality-oriented users is also going online – not least to the digital products within the same media market.” 

The study used by WEMF, known as the MACH-Basic-Studie, only looked at printed media – online use is not covered. 

Bonfadelli said a common topic of conversation was paywalls, which force readers to pay for content – “but young people today simply get their information for free”. 

What’s more, when it came to magazines and news weeklies, he said increasing prices and competition – including from abroad – certainly didn’t help. 

Regional trend 

It’s not all bad news though. Magazines which cater for special interests, such as Landliebe, a lifestyle magazine for lovers of the countryside, saw readership explode from 400,000 to 540,000 (up 35%), almost all of them women apparently. 

Similarly Wandermagazin Schweiz, for hikers, increased readership by 17% and crossed the 100,000 mark (105,000). BauernZeitung (Farming Times) attracted 21,000 new readers for a total of 177,000. 

An additional trend, noticed and analysed by swissinfo.ch almost two years ago, is for readers to turn from national news sources to regional ones. The St Galler Tagblatt saw readership go up by 13% and the Thurgauer Zeitung by 10%. 

Bonfadelli says this regional presence is very significant since it addresses a “niche which the internet doesn’t cover so well”, with the result that older people are turning more to local and regional newspapers.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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