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Germany – (F2) Patterns of news media use (consumption of news)

Score in short:

In Germany, news media use is – with certain reservations regarding the news media use of young people – at quite a high standard.

Score in detail:

Together, the five national quality newspapers have a daily circulation of about

1.35 Mio (IVW Auflagenstatistik; own calculation). All German daily newspapers have 46.9 million readers a day, which is more than half of the total population or more than 70 % of all people over 14 years (Media Perspektiven Basisdaten, p. 82; BDZV, p. 27). The reach of daily newspapers differs across age groups: while in the group of older people (60 to 69 years old and older than 70 years) the reach of daily newspapers is more than 80 %, for younger people (14 to 19 years) it is only 47.1 % (Table 2). This figure indicates a decrease in importance of newspapers as a source of information. These results are underpinned by findings from 2004, when only 29 % of the 14- to 29-year-olds agreed with the statement “One should regularly read newspapers” (BDZV, p. 31). In 2008, younger people were asked which media they could not give up: Only 3 % answered newspaper or magazines (ALM-Jahrbuch 2008, p. 183). If we anticipate quite linear cohort effects, this may lead to a decrease in newspaper journalism.

Table 2. Reach of daily newspapers in 2008 (by age cohorts)

14-19 y 20-29 y 30-39 y 40-49 y 50-59 y 60-69 y > 70 y
2008 47.1 % 57.7 % 66.8 % 73.7 % 80.6 % 83.8 % 82.9 %

Source: BDZV, p. 30.

The main news broadcasts in the evening obtain 1.54 to 8.74 million viewers on average; the market share lies between 6.5 and 33 %, which is a slight decrease compared to 2006 (Table 3). Other findings, which confirm our figures, suggest that Germany belongs to a group of countries that are eager for information: these countries pay a great deal of attention to current information and therefore have high rates for the use of newspapers and news broadcasts (Tenscher 2008).

Table 3. Use of TV News in 2008 (viewers from the age of three)

Channel Audience Market share
Tagesschau PBS 8.74 Mio 32.0 %
Heute PBS 3.96 Mio 18.0 %
RTL-Aktuell Commercial 3.74 Mio 18.2 %
Sat1-News Commercial 1.54 Mio 6.4 %
Tagesthemen PBS 2.26 Mio 10.5 %
Heute Journal PBS 3.33 Mio 12.0 %

Source: Zubayr & Gerhard 2009, p. 107.

There are only two national radio stations that are decidedly news oriented: Deutschlandfunk and Deutschlandradio Kultur. Both have a very low reach of 1.9 % (1.3 million listeners) and 0.5 % (0.4 million listeners), respectively (Media Perspektiven Basisdaten 2008, p. 78; Klingler & Müller 2008, p. 515). Additionally, we can speak of 34.2 million listeners to all regional and national public radio services (Klingler & Müller 2008, p. 515). Because these radio stations broadcast news programmes every hour, this figure suggests a high amount of “inadvertent” usage of news coverage. Looking at TV and radio use among younger people (18/19 years), we see that 86 % of them watch TV and 75 % listen to the radio at least once a week (Klingler 2008, p. 630).

The Internet clearly is not a main source of information. There are only four Internet pages in German language with news orientation in the top-40 list of reach (Table 4). The Internet is “often” and “occasionally” used as a source of information on current news and current regional news by 52 % and 40 %, respectively, of all Internet users (Van Eimeren & Frees 2008, p. 338). If we compare whether the Internet is primarily used for information (instead of entertainment), differences between age groups can be observed. The younger the people are, the less often they use they the Internet to obtain information, as Table 5 shows.

Table 4. Reach (user / month ) of news-oriented online outlets in 2008 (quality news paper / magazines within the top-40 list of reach)

Spiegel Online 5.20 Mio 3.58 Mio
Focus Online 3.26 Mio 2.41 Mio

Source: AGOF Internet facts I-IV; own calculation.

Table 5. Use of the Internet for information or entertainment (by age cohorts)

14-19 y 20-29 y 30-39 y > 50 y
2008 18% 42 % 65 % 83 %

Source: Van Eimeren & Frees 2008, p. 338.