The commuter newspapers grazed

The winners and losers of the 2001 Wemf circulation survey at a glance

The winners and losers of the 2001 Wemf circulation survey at a glanceby Daniel SchifferleThe latest circulation figures from the AG für Werbemedienforschung (Wemf) prove it: there have been some changes in the densely populated Swiss print media market. This is dramatically demonstrated by the Tages-Anzeiger and the commuter newspapers. But the wind also blew strongly upward for newspapers and magazines in some places.
Commuter newspapers have taken quite a beating from some Swiss German newspapers, as the Wemf-certified circulations for 2001 show. Contrary to the fears of many publishers, however, the losses were limited to the two titles most firmly anchored in the commuter newspapers' catchment area, the Tages-Anzeiger and the Aargauer Zeitung, and to the Blick. The Tages-Anzeiger has been hit hardest, losing 4.2 percent of its circulation, or a good 11,700 copies, in the first full year since the new free newspapers came into existence. Never before had Tamedia AG's flagship lost so much circulation in one year.
For René Gehrig, Head of Publishing Marketing at Tamedia, however, the marked slide is no surprise. "It was already clear to us with the launch of the commuter newspapers that the regional newspapers in the catchment area would be most affected," he said. Fears that there would be a drop in circulation due to the experience with commuter newspapers in Norway have fully materialized at the Tages-Anzeiger.
And Gehrig expects another loss "in the same order of magnitude" for the current year. The Aargauer Zeitung also attributes its circulation loss of 1.5 percent or 1550 copies to the new free newspapers. The new competition has had a particular impact along the Dietikon-Baden-Lenzburg-Aarau axis. In the cantonal capital of Aarau, the "area-wide home delivery of Metropol" also had a negative impact on the Aargauer Zeitung, according to the publisher's management.
Blick has just escaped the growing trend toward free reading with a black eye. Its circulation shrank by just 1.5 percent, but in absolute terms this still amounts to 11,700 copies.
The current certification means a sigh of relief for most of the other newspapers in or on the fringes of the commuter newspapers' catchment area, where fear of losses had also spread among them at the start. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung proved to be resistant. In its first full year with the commuter newspapers, it actually increased its circulation by 0.3 percent. And the Winterthurer Landbote, also in the catchment area of the commuter newspapers, held up well with a circulation gain of 1.8 percent.
But the German-speaking Swiss newspapers did not do badly in the race for the favor of their readers in other respects either. Both SonntagsBlick and SonntagsZeitung, as well as Berner Zeitung and Bund, were able to make slight gains. The business titles even achieved steep circulation gains. The highly profitable Finanz und Wirtschaft again grew by 8.9 percent. This means that the financial title has increased its paid circulation by more than 6,000 copies in just three years. Cash was also clearly on the upswing with a 2.1 percent increase in circulation.
Last year, on the other hand, was a disaster for Die Weltwoche. Its circulation plummeted by 8.8 percent or 8,000 copies. With the second biggest plunge in the paper's history, the slight upward trend of the previous three years was brutally halted.
Weltwoche's publishing director Uli Rubner justifies the worrying paper's renewed slide with a departure from the previous mass marketing strategy. "Instead of increasing circulation at any price, part of the marketing funds were reallocated to strengthening the brand." (See also WW 13/01.)
ZürichExpress also benefits from commuter newspapers
No worries plague the free newspaper ZürichExpress (ZE). Its circulation has grown by 4.4 percent or almost 8,500 copies. And this despite, or rather because of, the commuter newspapers. René Gehrig interprets the fabulous upward trend as follows: "A market for free newspapers has developed in the greater Zurich area, from which ZE is also benefiting."
The first official circulation figures for the commuter newspapers are still awaited in vain, because both 20 Minuten and Metropol further expanded their distribution areas in the second half of last year. However, the moment of truth for both titles will come in the fall, when Wemf publishes the latest readership figures for the Swiss print media. Until then, only the print circulation is available as a guide, which for both is around 310000 copies.
Although western Swiss newspaper publishers were not plagued by commuter newspapers, there were nevertheless creaks in the woodwork of some titles. Le matin dimanche, the daily newspaper, suffered particularly.
lost 3.3 percent, or more than 7,000 copies, and the weekly edition of Le matin was also in decline, losing 3.4 percent, or just over 2,000 copies.
Theo Bouchat, head of publications at Edipresse, relativizes this by saying that it remains to be seen whether the loss is to be taken in full. At the moment, a judicial investigation is underway into a person who regularly looted newspaper boxes.
It's quite possible that the slip will be corrected somewhat, says Bouchat. The other major newspapers in French-speaking Switzerland did not fare particularly well either. Both 24 heures and Tribune de Genève suffered losses of 1.3 percent each. But smaller titles such as L'Impartial, which lost 3.6 percent, and L'Express, which sold 2.6 percent fewer copies last year, were also clearly in reverse gear.
Upward and also downward trends in the magazine markets
The magazine markets were also characterized by some turbulence. Das Beste again suffered heavy losses. Circulation of the German-language version published by Reader's Digest (see also page 3) fell by a further 1.5 percent, while the French-language edition slumped by as much as 6 percent. Once again by
Glückspost, whose circulation has also been crumbling for several years, fell by 3 percent. And Automobil Revue also continued its downward slide at virtually the same rate as the previous year, with a drop of 5 percent.
The women's titles on both sides of the language border also had a difficult time. Edelweiss, which is only a few years old in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, has already lost a slight amount of circulation. Annabelle's circulation also fell by 1.7 percent, which is considerably less than in the previous year.
Meyer's, which continued to lurch even in the year of its relaunch, was badly hit. This time, it fell by a whopping 9.8 percent, or more than 11,000 copies. For publishing director Maya Ziegler, the dive is a consequence of the magazine's radical repositioning. "We are now making a news magazine for family and business women, a completely new style in which many older readers can no longer find themselves," she says.
As a result, many older subscribers who still identified with the conservative fashion and pattern booklet canceled their subscriptions. But Ziegler is "very happy" with the new concept and convinced that it is the right recipe for the future.
Up there, down there:
Tamedia in a state of flux
The figures for Facts also came as a surprise. Although its circulation had already grown only weakly in the two previous years, the fact that this time it dived by 3.2 percent or
3360 copies is painful. But René Gehrig does not see the first circulation loss since the launch as an indication that Facts may already have reached the ceiling.
"The slippage is an effect of more intensive marketing in the launch phase. The circulation is now merely being adjusted," says Gehrig. The latest trend, however, gives cause for optimism again. Gehrig: "Since Hannes Britschgi has been editor-in-chief, the return of mailings and the conversion rate of trial subscriptions have increased."
Tamedia hit the brakes last year with its previous circulation worry child, Schweizer Familie. After last year's drop of 10 percent, it has now even managed a razor-thin gain. A minor sensation, because classic family titles are a difficult legacy in the magazine portfolio of publishing houses. "The once again increased utility value and the focus on the areas of nature and health are catching on," says a pleased Gehrig.
In addition to the problems mentioned above, however, the magazines as a whole also had a lot of good news to offer. Various titles that were no longer so young, such as Du, Tierwelt and Wir Eltern, showed new freshness with growth of over 3 percent each. The junior in the German-speaking Swiss magazine market, Gesundheit-Sprechstunde, even managed a jump of 13.3 percent or almost 9,000 copies. And Puls-Tip was also right on target in the still steep upward trend in health topics. With an additional 7400 copies, or an increase of 5.3 percent, it profited only slightly less than Gesundheit-Sprechstunde.
There is already positive news from the youngest children in the magazine market. René Schuhmacher's Saldo, the advertising-free competitor to K-Tip, was certified for the first time and sold 1,4,275 copies at the first attempt. On the other hand, K-Tip circulation fell by 0.8 percent for the first time after years of growth. But this is not yet a cause for concern, because with almost 379000 copies, K-Tip remains the sovereign leader among Swiss magazines.
Although not yet the leader among the publications of the HandelsZeitung publishing group, the investor magazine Stocks is not that far away either. In the first provisional certification for the months February to March 2001, the baby magazine of German-speaking Switzerland comes to 26996 copies - only 10,000 copies less than its big brother HandelsZeitung, and that already at the tender age of five months.
The friendly climate for economic issues was also felt by the Bilan in Western Switzerland, which, after diving in the previous year, was now up 3.3 percent.
Incidentally, the latest magazine editions in French-speaking Switzerland present themselves as a roller coaster. Animan, along with Sélection, stood out as striking losers. Both lost a steep 6 percent. Bon à savoir with
Meanwhile, 5.5 percent plus and Générations with even plus 6.8 percent were in top form.
Finally, in Ticino, the development is so stable that the view across the Alps hardly brings anything new. All three Ticino dailies sailed solidly in the market with slight gains. The free titles Il mattino della domenica and Illustrazione Ticinese even went up by 2.3 percent each.
The decisive factor for media planners are the readership figures for Mach Basic. We can therefore look forward to this second act in the annual spectacle of print media figures, which will follow in the fall. Then also including commuter newspapers.

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