Free newspaper

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Free newspapers are periodically (daily or weekly), free of charge, print media with editorial content. Financing comes exclusively from advertising revenues . They are usually distributed either in public spaces (e.g. at public transport stops for commuter newspapers) or to all households in a certain publication area (regional free weekly newspapers, in Germany advertising papers , in Switzerland called Anzeiger). The majority of the free newspapers appear in tabloid or small format . The content of free newspapers, the proportion of editorial reporting that is independent of the advertisements and their quality vary greatly. General judgments about this type of media often dominate the discussion, but are ultimately not tenable because they can often be refuted with counter-examples.

The established commercial newspaper publishers have always seen the market entry of free newspapers as a threat. In response to this, they tried in the past in vain to obtain a ban on free competition through legal disputes. In the meantime, free newspapers have made a triumphant advance around the globe, and the established commercial newspaper publishers have entered the free newspaper business themselves. Today there is hardly a major publishing house that does not publish free newspapers itself or is involved in free newspaper publishers.

(New) free titles have doubled their circulation since 2002, according to the World Association of Newspapers from May 2007 to a total of 41 million copies, which are mainly read by young people.

History of the free daily newspapers

The first free daily newspaper in the world is now the Manly Daily , which first appeared in July 1906 in New South Wales (Australia). It consisted of two pages and had an edition of 1000 copies. It still exists (circulation: 91,000), now in Murdoch's News Corporation .

The history of free daily newspapers in the United States goes back to the 1940s. Publisher Dean Lesher founded the Contra Costa Times newspaper in Walnut Creek , which remained free until the 1960s. Today the newspaper belongs to MediaNews , the fourth largest newspaper publisher in the USA.

The free daily newspaper experienced its triumphant advance in Europe when metro was founded in Stockholm in 1995 . Metro International is now active in Europe in the Czech Republic , Hungary , the Netherlands , Finland , Italy , Poland , Greece , Spain , Denmark , France and Portugal . Spending in Switzerland and the United Kingdom has ceased. The Schibsted publishing group is active in France and Spain with its free daily newspaper concept 20 Minuten . The Swiss edition was sold to the Swiss media company Tamedia .

German free newspapers

In Germany , numerous regional weekly or Sunday newspapers appear as free newspapers with very different editorial shares and in very different quality. A controversial and now outdated case law (the proceedings were initiated by the established newspaper publishers) from the 1970s and 1980s prohibited the free papers from calling themselves " newspapers ". This is why the generic term “advertising papers” , which is used exclusively in Germany, was created .

The attempt of the Schibsted publishing group in 1999 to launch the free daily newspaper 20 Minuten in Cologne resulted in the so-called Cologne newspaper war . The local newspaper publishers DuMont and Axel Springer responded by issuing competing free papers and started a protracted legal dispute. Schibsted withdrew from the German market in 2001 with severe losses, the two Cologne rival newspapers were also discontinued. It was not until 2003 that the Federal Court of Justice ruled that free newspapers are unobjectionable under competition law and therefore allowed in the interests of freedom of the press. A constitutional complaint lodged against this judgment was not accepted by the Federal Constitutional Court in 2007 and the matter was not decided because the specific reason for the discontinuation of the products in Cologne had been resolved. A final decision on the constitutional admissibility is still pending.

Swiss free newspapers

The largest Swiss free newspapers are the millions of copies printed by wholesalers, Coop newspaper and Migros magazine . In addition, there have been many local and regional free advertisements for a long time.

On December 7, 1986, the Neue Sonntagsblatt appeared as a free commuter newspaper . The project was launched by the regional publishers of the Berner Zeitung , the Basler Zeitung , the Bündner Zeitung , the St. Galler Zeitung and the Vaterland . The initiator was the former editor-in-chief of Züri Leu and founder of Züri-Woche (1982) Karl Lüönd , while Beat Curti , the owner of Züri-Woche and Schweizerischer Beobachter at the time, was in charge of publishing . The project failed as early as mid-November 1987 after the decision of the Berner Zeitung to withdraw from the project at short notice.

The free newspaper 20 Minuten was founded in 1999 by the Norwegian media company Schibsted . In 2002 it ousted its competitor Metropol, which was founded at about the same time by the Swedish media company Metro International, and was taken over by the Swiss media company Tamedia in 2005 . In 2006 Tamedia founded the French edition 20 minutes and in 2011 as a joint venture with the Ticino newspaper laRegione the Italian edition 20 minuti . 20 Minuten produces regional editions in Zurich , Bern , Basel , Lucerne and St. Gallen and has been the daily newspaper with the highest circulation and the highest number of readers in Switzerland since 2004 ; it has 1,332,000 readers. 20 minutes with regional editions in Lausanne and Geneva and 20 minuti in Lugano -Bregassona have 500,000 and 92,000 certified readers respectively.

Between September 2006 and March 2009, the business newspaper Cash daily was available in 1,100 kiosks across Switzerland from Monday to Friday . In March 2009 the newspaper was discontinued.

In Western Switzerland there were 2005 to 2009 Le Matin Bleu (353,000 readers, the daily newspaper Le Matin ) of the Lausanne media company Edipresse . After Tamedia took over Edipresse's Swiss activities, Le Matin Bleu was discontinued.

The new free newspaper .ch appeared for the first time on September 19, 2007 . As a countermeasure, Tamedia, together with the Berner and Basler Zeitung , published the free newspaper News shortly afterwards . .ch lost the displacement battle and was discontinued in 2009. News was also discontinued a few months later .

In 2006, the Swiss media group Ringier published the free evening newspaper heute and in 2008 its successor, Blick am Abend . This reaches 550,000 certified readers.

A regional free newspaper in Switzerland is the Biel Bienne from the Cortesi office. Biel Bienne is distributed every week to all households in the Biel , Seeland , Bernese Jura and the city of Grenchen (reach 104,000 readers according to WEMF MACH Basic 2018-II). Biel Bienne is bilingual, all articles are written in German and French (mostly by the same author, so not translated). The Biel Bienne is therefore an important part of Biel's bilingual culture . Biel Bienne was founded in 1978 by Mario Cortesi . The Biel Bienne is popularly known as the “Cortesi-Blick”, referring to the tabloid Blick .

Austrian free newspapers

As regional weekly newspapers, free newspapers have long established their place in the Austrian media landscape. They appear nationwide, mostly in several mutations as free newspaper rings and also across federal states. Under the umbrella of Regionalmedien Austria (RMA), a total of 139 newspapers of the brands bz-Wiener Bezirkszeitung , Bezirksblätter Burgenland, Lower Austria, Salzburg and Tyrol, WOCHE Carinthia and Styria, the cooperation partner Bezirksrundschau Upper Austria and regional newspapers Vorarlberg, as well as Grazer, Carinthian regional media appear throughout Austria , Schwaz focus and Wörgler & Kufsteiner Rundschau. All Austrian free newspapers are organized in the Association of Regional Media Austria (VRM).

The era of free daily newspapers in Austria began in Vienna in 2001. When an international company was planning a daily free daily newspaper for Vienna , the publishing house of the Kronen Zeitung , Austria's largest newspaper, launched a daily free newspaper, namely the U-Express distributed in the Vienna underground . So as not to compete too much with the parent newspaper, but without some elements that attract the public (such as the television program). The U-Express was discontinued after a few years in March 2004 against the will of Krone boss Hans Dichand at the request of the German co-owner WAZ . Only a few months later, in September 2004, a new, free and somewhat more extensive newspaper for the subway called Today appeared . The media owner is the AHVV Verlags GmbH. In addition to Wolfgang Jansky, the daughter-in-law of the late Krone boss Hans Dichand, Eva Dichand, is the managing director . She is also the editor of the paper.

Today the company has expanded to Lower Austria, Graz , Linz and Wels . The Styria Media Group ( Kleine Zeitung ) anticipated it in Graz . Since May 22, 2006 Styria published the free daily OK there . In July 2007, both Heute and OK withdrew from Graz at the same time.

In Vienna, a free edition of the daily newspaper Austria has been distributed via display boxes since 2006 .

Further free daily newspapers appear in Upper Austria with Oberösterreichs Neue from Medienhaus Wimmer and in Tyrol the Tyrolean daily newspaper Kompakt.

According to Section 8 of the SPÖ Vienna (February 2017) there are around 800 self-withdrawal boxes from OK and Austria , especially at underground stations. This section also implemented a ban because of the incurred cleaning costs due to thrown newspapers, but its application did not receive a majority at the state party conference in April 2017.

Free newspapers in Luxembourg

In Luxembourg , the free newspaper L'essentiel has been published since October 10, 2007 in a subsidiary of Editpress, which publishes the second largest daily newspaper in the country, Tageblatt . On November 27, 2007 the publishing house Saint-Paul, whose main title D'Wort is the newspaper with the highest circulation, responded with the also free title Point24 . Both publications are written exclusively in French , and the content and appearance are similar to those of the popular free newspapers in neighboring France. Point24 was discontinued at the end of 2012.


  1. BGHZ 157, 55 (20 minutes Cologne); see also afp 2004, 255 (Sunday newspaper)
  2. Decision of June 25, 2007 - 1 BvR 1293/04. Federal Constitutional Court , June 25, 2007.
  3. Silent giants. In: NZZ . October 14, 2005.
  4. More excitement, less contemplation. In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . January 5, 2007.
  5. a b WEMF Total Audience 2018-2 ( Memento of the original from October 15, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , P. 6 (PDF; 609 kB). @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. Michèle Widmer: Which sheet reader wins, which loses. In: . April 10, 2017.
  7. No end for U-Bahn newspaper boxes, April 30, 2017, accessed April 30, 2017.
  8. ^ SPÖ "Section 8" wants to end newspaper boxes February 17, 2017, accessed April 30, 2017.


  • Piet Bakker: Free Daily Newspapers; Business Models and Strategies . In: JMM Journal of Media Management . 4 (3), 180-187 (2002).
  • Thomas Driendl: The market for free newspapers in Austria . Diploma thesis, University of Innsbruck 2005.
  • Marcus Haas: The given newspaper. Inventory and studies on a new type of press in Europe . Lit Vlg.Hopf, Münster 2005, ISBN 3-8258-8632-8 .
  • Nikolaus Lahusen: Content and barriers of the freedom of the press - The legal problem of the free distribution of daily newspapers. Writings on media law, Vol. 6. Verlag Dr. Kovač, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-8300-1664-6 .
  • Marc-Christian Ollrog: Displacement or coexistence: France's daily press under the expansion of free newspapers (also diploma thesis, University of Leipzig 2006).
  • Robert G. Picard: Strategic Responses to Free Distribution Daily Newspapers . In: The International Journal on Media Management . Volume 3, No. 3, 2001, pp. 167-172.
  • Carly L. Price: Threats and Opportunities of Free Newspapers . INMA (International Newspaper Marketing Association), Dallas 2002.
  • Piet Bakker: The life cycle of a free newspaper business model in newspaper-rich markets Journalistica No. 1. 2013/33 ISSN  1904-7967

Web links

Wiktionary: Free newspaper  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations