Young turn page on traditional press

Mobile phones are likely to become an increasingly popular source for news and information Keystone

For the internet generation, free newspapers, online media and blogs offer an increasingly vibrant media scene compared with established news sources, a study shows.

According to a Swiss media research institute, traditional newspapers and magazines continue to lose younger fans. The study also reveals that young people are far from being swamped by the news and information they handle on a daily basis.

Figures released earlier this week by the Zurich-based institute, Wemf, showed that daily paid-for newspapers are continuing their downward spiral, losing 717,000 readers in one year.

At the same time free newspapers pursue their inexorable rise and are read by around 40 per cent of Swiss newspaper readers.

On Tuesday Wemf held a conference in Zurich where it presented the results of a survey of media trends it had carried out among 500 Swiss aged 14-20.

The 18- to 20-year-olds are the biggest readers of free newspapers, Vivianne Zimmermann, head of Wemf's "Young people and newspapers" project, confirmed.

"And if you look at the 14-20 age group, the percentage of readers of free papers has risen by 30 per cent in a year," she told swissinfo. "But the figure has also risen among all age groups."

The free journal market has been booming in Switzerland since 2004. There are now five free papers on the German-speaking market and two in the French-speaking part of the country. In contrast, the major regional newspapers continue to lose tens of thousands of readers, while smaller regional papers fair slightly better, but also report falling circulations.

Not swamped

The survey of young people also showed that only 21 per cent of those questioned felt swamped by the masses of information they were bombarded with on a daily basis.

"The multi-tasking capacities of young people are legendary," said Wemf researcher Karin Jost.

"The internet is still used as the main source of media information, followed by television and radio. Yet television still dominates for entertainment," she explained.

According to the 500 respondents, the internet is the main place where they look for information on the latest trends, ahead of magazines or television, and free newspapers give the best rapid overview of what is happening in the world, ahead of the internet and television.

Traditional paid-for newspapers are still used when looking for in-depth reports, ranked ahead of television but behind the internet, and are useful for national and international information. But free papers are where young people go for ideas on where to go out and what to do at the weekend.

Online, mobile news

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority said they would use the internet, mobile phones and podcasts much more often in the future as sources of news and information. However, the numbers tuning into radio news shows is likely to remain stable: 27 per cent said they would probably listen more often to radio and the same number said they would listen less.

But 31 per cent said they would read fewer newspapers, compared with 24 per cent who said they would read more.

Books also have a sombre future ahead of them. According to the survey, 38 per cent of those questioned said they would read fewer books in the future, while the same percentage said they would buy the same number of books.

Likewise, magazines are likely to gather dust on newsagents' shelves, with 43 per cent saying they would buy fewer specialist publications, surpassing the 39 per cent who predicted no change in the years ahead.

Ulrich Reinhardt, director of the German think tank Foundation for future questions, who was also present at the Zurich forum, tried to put the study in perspective.

"Don't forget that young people are in the minority. Fifty years ago there were twice as many 15-year-olds as there are today. Let's not totally focus on this age group, especially as older people have greater financial means," he told swissinfo.

"My biggest concern is the growing gap between young people who leave school at 16 and those who go on to complete higher education. The latter use the internet three times as much as the former."

swissinfo, Ariane Gigon in Zurich

Swiss newspapers

91.6% of Swiss read newspapers, according to a recent survey by media consultants Wemf.

Top four readership - dailies
20 Minuten (free, German version): 1,299,000
Blick: 650,000
Le Matin Bleu (free, French): 524,000
Tages-Anzeiger: 487,000

Others
Neue Zürcher Zeitung: 291,000
20 Minutes (free, French): 471,000
Le Matin: 283,000
24 Heures: 230,000

Source: Wemf

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