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Free newspapers: The German situation

Hans-Joachim Fuhrmann, member of the board of the BDZV (German Newspaper Publishers’ Association)

When will free newspapers come to Germany? And when they come, what will be the consequences for the paid-for newspapers? newspaper techniques asked Hans-Joachim Fuhrmann, member of the board of the BDZV (German Newspaper Publishers’ Association).

newspaper techniques: Why is the German market especially problematical for the introduction of free newspapers?

Hans-Joachim Fuhrmann: Free newspapers are by nature problematical, independent of national markets. They are in total contradiction to the principle that journalistic quality has its price and therefore should not be given away.

nt: Who wants the free newspaper: the publishing house, the advertisers, the readers?

H.-J. Fuhrmann: If anyone, then most likely the readers, and that is exactly the problem. That the free newspaper does not exactly promote the interests of the paid-for newspaper is obvious. But it is interesting to note that the free newspapers effectively reach young readers and apparently can even transform non-newspaper readers into readers. The easily communicable contents, modern appearance and small format prove popular among young target groups. This is demonstrated also by German tabloids, such as 20 Cent, Welt kompakt, News or Direkt. But these are not free newspapers, and that is the major difference.

nt: Is it possible to earn money in Germany with free newspapers? Will there be a cannibalisation effect?

H.-J. Fuhrmann: I will leave it to others to speculate on whether and, if so, how quickly free newspapers could be developed to a profitable business in Germany. Experience shows that, naturally, the established newspapers are in some cases cannibalised to a large degree. It is also no secret that the advertising budgets do not automatically grow when a new medium enters the market.

nt: What strategy should a traditional regional newspaper adopt in order to be prepared?

H.-J. Fuhrmann: I think that the publishing houses are well positioned. After all, the topic of free newspapers has not occupied the attention of the companies only since yesterday. The strategy is obvious: the primary objective is to offensively capture the regional market and accordingly use as many channels as possible to reach as many readers, users and advertisers as possible with attractive offerings.

Charlotte Janischewski conducted the interview.

Page first published: 14.11.2005

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