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”.
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.
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 (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.