Until now, the Swiss media industry has watched almost in disbelief as digital competitors from overseas siphoned off advertising money. Google in particular is becoming stronger and more powerful. In June, it was announced that the search engine giant will break the two-billion-franc barrier with advertising revenues in this country in 2018. An impressive and at the same time frightening figure. For the first time, Google will generate more advertising money than the entire Swiss media landscape in the print, television and radio sectors combined. As recently as 2016, Media Focus had attributed "only" 450 million francs in advertising revenue to the group - the increase is something to be worried about. And these figures only concern Google.
Facebook generates far less advertising money, but with Instagram it has an ace up its sleeve that is also becoming increasingly popular on the advertising market. It's still enough to generate triple-digit millions in sales in Switzerland - money that is sorely lacking elsewhere.
The ideas on how to stand up to the overpowering competitors have been manifold in the past. The Admeira advertising joint venture initiated by Ringier, Swisscom and SRG, for example, dedicated itself to precisely this battle when it was launched. And generously overlooked the fact that the non-participating publishers would ask uncomfortable (and justified) questions about the role of Swisscom, which is close to the state, and SRG, which is financed by licence fees. Endless disputes ensued, some of them in court. In the end, SRG announced its withdrawal. A concentrated offensive with bundled power from the (ailing) media industry? No such thing. Back to field one.
Corporations like Google are probably laughing up their sleeves as they watch the helpless theater. Or rather: would observe. Because presumably they're not particularly interested in it. In recent years they have played by their own rules, ignoring the European data protection laws that lag behind digitalisation or at best interpreting them as they see fit. While the others argued among themselves, discussed closing ranks or demanded legal regulations, they quietly (but with the enormous speed of today's market development) extended their lead over the domestic competition. The Swiss pace in finding consensus and solutions that everyone can live with (including legally) is sustainable and actually likeable. However, in direct comparison with the US giants, who usually already plan several steps ahead, it reaches its limits - to say the least.
An announcement, recently made at the Swiss Media Forum, raises some hope again: The publishers want to provide their news portals with a common login in order to be able to provide advertising customers with more precise customer profiles. For once, all the major publishers are sitting at the negotiating table - in addition to NZZ, SRG, Somedia and AZ Medien, there are also the heavyweights Ringier and Tamedia, who have been at loggerheads since Admeira. Recently, the timetable also seems to be right: Instead of debating around the bush for a long time, as in the past, they want to launch the project as early as the beginning of 2019. Whether a common login is the last word is not so important. What is important is that a) no more time is wasted and b) solutions are sought together in the fight against the outflow of advertising money overseas and that we pull together.
However, a united front is neither a solution nor an actual strategy, but a necessary prerequisite if one wants to retain a chance in this seemingly almost hopeless tug-of-war. Afterwards, one can devote oneself to the problems among each other again.
Thomas Häusermann, Editor-in-Chief a.i. Werbewoche