For U.S. Newspaper Industry, an Example in Germany?

U.S. publishers come in for withering criticism in a report this month from the German Newspaper Publishers’ Association. The study contrasts the crisis facing American newspapers with the somewhat healthier state of their German counterparts. While daily newspaper circulation in the United States fell 27 percent from 1998 through 2008, it slipped 19 percent in Germany. While fewer than half of Americans read newspapers, more than 70 percent of Germans do. While newspapers’ revenues have plunged in the United States, they have held steady in Germany since 2004. American publishers blame the economic crisis and the Internet for their plight, but the report says the structure of the U.S. newspaper industry is a big part of the problem. Most German newspapers are owned by family concerns or other small companies with local roots, but the American industry is dominated by publicly traded chains. Under pressure from shareholders clamoring for short-term results, the study contends, U.S. newspapers made reckless cuts in editorial and production quality, hastening the flight of readers and advertisers to the Web. Instead of focusing on journalism, the report says, U.S. newspapers also made unwise investments in new media, and compounded the damage by giving away their contents free on the Internet. German publishers have been much more reticent about the Web, in some cases keeping large amounts of their content offline. In other ways, however, the German and U.S. newspaper markets are similar. Unlike some other European countries, for example, Germany has a strong local press. The report aims to reassure German newspaper publishers that the similarities end there: they need not fear a similar fate to the one that has befallen newspapers in the United States, where several prominent publishers have gone out of business and others are working their way through bankruptcy.


One thought on “For U.S. Newspaper Industry, an Example in Germany?

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