Marc Walder: Swiss media environment – Developments and prospects

Switzerland is characterized by its cul­­tural diversity. Another characteristic of the Swiss Confederation is direct de­­mo­c­­racy, which is rooted in an old tra­­dition and anchored in public aware­ness. The Swiss sense of democracy and fe­d­­­eralism are closely linked to a claim to individual, transparent and indepen­­dent information as a prerequisite for the freedom of opi­­n­­ions and decision ma­k­­ing. Those social and political conditions are thus shaping the Swiss media environment. For ex­­am­­ple, there are 200 newspapers spreading vast amounts of information in Switzerland, of which 150 or so in the German-speaking part of the country, about 50 in Romandy, ten in Ticino, and two in the Romansh part of the country.

The newspaper medium boasts an im­­pressive range:
92 per cent of the Swiss population over 13 years of age read at least one news­paper more or less regularly. The digital media TV and radio also offer diversity to the Swiss population. SRG SSR idée suis­­se, the Swiss public radio and television broadcasting organization, plays a lead­ing role in those markets. SRG SSR of­­fers eight TV and 18 radio stations in all four national languages. SRG SSR renders its so-called “Service public” on national and linguistic levels. The local and regional levels of the radio and television market are occupied by private companies. The Internet is playing an ever bigger role in how the media are used. According to the federal office of statistics, more than 70 per cent of the Swiss use the internet se­v­eral times per week; in the age groups under 40, it is more than 85 per cent.
More than half of all internet users read daily news on the Internet. The most used news web sites are “Blick”, “20 Minuten”, “Schweizer Fernsehen”, “Neue Zürcher Zei­­tung” (NZZ) and “Tages-Anzeiger”.

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In terms of economic significance, the en­­tire media branch employs approximately 75,000 people – spread over 7,000 or so compa­­nies. Roughly 10,000 are journalists or editors, and about 9,000 work for printing companies. While production jobs are declining, the increasing digitalization is creating new professions such as webmaster and multimedia journalist.

In 2007, the classic media newspaper, mag­­a­­zine, TV and radio generated a turn­­over of 8.2 billion Swiss francs. 4.3 bil­­lion are apportioned to print products, 3.3 billion to television, and 0.6 billion to ra­­dio. While 40 per cent of the in­­come is de­­rived from advertisement, the remaining 60 per cent are consumer contributions. In 1999, the Swiss media market was stir­­red by the launching of the free paper “20 Minuten” in Zurich.
That new business model put the pay pa­­pers under pressure. Nowadays, “20 Mi­­nuten” dominates the German-speaking part of the Swiss market with 1.4 million readers. On the daily newspaper market, the advertisement market share of “20 Minuten” is nearly 30 per cent. While, for some time, seven free papers were vying for readers and advertisers on the Swiss market, a free-newspaper market ad­­just­­ment is currently taking place: “cash” and “.ch” have disappeared, and in Western Switzerland, “Le Matin Bleu” and “20 Mi­­nutes” have merged. The German-spea­k­­ing market retains the free papers “20 Minuten”, “Blick am Abend” and “News” (greater Zurich).

The Sunday paper market is very dynamic. In 2002, the launching of “NZZ am Sonntag” added a third title to the al­­ready established “SonntagsBlick” and “SonntagsZeitung”. “Südostschweiz am Sonntag” followed in 2006; with “Sonntag”, “Mittelland Zeitung” started a seventh edi­­tion in 2007; and “Zentralschweiz am Sonn­­tag” first went to production in 2008. The Swiss media branch is undergoing a structural change of the sort that can be observed worldwide. Traditional media companies are grappling with declining advertise­ment profits from the print me­­dia (newspapers and magazines). And yet, the print segment continues to repre­sent the largest one in the media split of ad­­vertisement expenditures. In contrast, the advertisement market share of the in­­ter­­net is growing, albeit on a lower level. The internet sub-segment “search” is domina­t­ed by Google, a new player in the Swiss media environment.

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The structural change is also causing consolidations in the cor­­porate landscape. In 2007, for example, Ta­­media acquired the Espace Media Group in Bern.
In 2009, Tamedia announced a merger with Edipresse Schweiz. Further develop­­ments in the media sector are foreseeable.
Ten years from now, will printed newspapers and magazines really have disappeared, as predicted by Steve Ball­mer, CEO of Microsoft, in a 2008 inter­view with the “Washington Post”? In the fu­­ture, media companies will indeed be facing the challenge of how to generate lasting revenue with their journalistic services. But one thing is for certain: The media will retain their raison d’être, for they satisfy the key human needs for information, entertainment, classification and explanation.

Marc_Walder_111-KopieMarc Walder (44) is General Manager of Ringier Schweiz. From 1993 to 1994, he gra­d­ua­ted from the Ringier School of Jour­­na­lism, then worked as a chief report­­er and entertainment manager, later also as a news desk manager and member of the editorial board of Blick, before becom­­ing chief editor of Schweizer Il­­lus­trierte and SonntagsBlick. Ringier is a multina­tional and multimedia corporation with a worldwide staff of approximately 8,000.