Considering the development of the modern printing press took place in fifteenth-century Mainz, western Germany, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the landscape of German media consumption today looks as strong as its economy. In recent years, the outlook of printed newspapers in the UK has been bleak; it is perhaps best illustrated by the 2016 demise of the printed The Independent after it was selling just 85% of its 1990 circulation in 2015 and becoming debatably, the first of many British newspapers to go online only.
Meanwhile in Germany, strong consumption figures are routinely collected to track the readership and audience numbers of its broadly ranging newspapers, magazines, periodicals, television and radio. Encyclopaedia Britannica comments rather enthusiastically that ‘Germans are voracious readers of newspapers and periodicals’, which is certainly supported by the statistics. Earlier this year, the Bundesverband Deutscher Zeitungsverlege or Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers, reported that Germany is the largest European consumer of newspapers and the fifth largest globally after China, Japan, India and the U.S. Its 327 daily regional and national newspapers are read by a staggering 14.7 million readers daily, which equates to nearly a fifth of the German population.
the role of Germany’s mass media has always played a significant and interesting role in the country’s history
Leading German newspapers reflect a range of political allegiances, with the top three being Süddeutsche Zeitung (‘South German Newspaper’), with its centre-left leanings among the centre-right conservatism of Die Welt (‘The World’) and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (‘Frankfurt General Newspaper’). However, topping the sales of papers is the tabloid Bild, (literally translated as ‘Picture’), known as the journalistic rival of Britain’s The Sun, Europe’s second most popular tabloid.
The reasons for the roaring success aren’t as easy to interpret as the statistics. It may be the element of tradition, of reading the news in the morning rather than looking for it in various apps and websites online. Indeed, a symbol of the support of Encyclopaedia Britannica’s comment are the designated newspaper post-boxes outside the homes of readers across towns and villages, with some even branded with the logo of the newspaper they await the delivery of.
In a 2016 survey of 12 to 19-year-olds asking how many of them trusted what they read in newspapers, 41% said yes, compared with only 15% believing what is published on the internet, symbolising a greater trust in printed news. The variety of newspapers available should also be mentioned, as regional publications of towns, cities and states also shape the model of German printed newspapers, with two examples of the capital’s publications alone being Berliner Morgenpost and Berliner Zeitung. News magazines also make up for a section of the market, with the most well-known of these being the weekly Der Spiegel (‘The Mirror’), the more investigative, continental cousin of The Economist.
Magazines also serve as a crucial component of this aspect of German culture, with newsagents nationally selling a phenomenal range of publications tailored to all interests and hobbies. In the world of music publications, Germany basks in a broad range of monthlies such as Rolling Stone – unlike the UK, where music magazines could be counted on one hand- but also those dedicated to one genre, such as Juice, which discusses hip-hop, and Groove, an electronic specialist, as well as publications about vinyl. Many of the major music publications even include a free CD of a mixtape of the month’s best tracks, meaning the world of magazines in German truly are their own part of the country’s culture.
its current range and accessibility is a sign of its fight against the decline of printed media and radio
Maintaining this broad spectrum of choice is German radio, or ‘Funk’. With over 500 stations across Germany, the three nationwide public stations each represent something different. Deutschlandfunk reports on news and current affairs, whereas tuning in to Deutschlandradio Kultur will present you with a selection of mostly cultural programmes, and DRadio Wissen keeps mostly to short bulletins of science and technology stories. Naturally, the role of Germany’s mass media has always played a significant and interesting role in the country’s history, as shown in the partition years where East Germany was able to easily receive broadcasts from the West and remain informed on the news across the border. Today, however, the face of German radio is as richly diverse as the newsagent shelves, and even boasts stations recommended for German learners; its darker role in the past replaced by a reigniting of interest and habit.
Whilst such positive news and statistics are certainly refreshing when it comes to the success of printed media and broadcasting, perhaps these figures are merely the calm before the storm if Germany’s circulation and media consumption figures drop in the years to come, if the country follows the UK’s example and increasingly relies on the internet. Hopefully, its current range and accessibility is a sign of its fight against the decline of printed media and radio; it is hard to imagine the future culture of Germany without its love and respect for its modern mass media.