Germany, land of poets and thinkers! Famous not only for Neuschwanstein Castle, beer, Weißwurst and Sauerkraut, we have always had a thing for great writing.
In fact, our journalistic traditions date back to the Weimar Republic (1919-1933). Ever since the end of WWII the German media has been independent, vocal and respected. It tries to avoid political extremes and we cherish our laws promoting free speech and opinions.
A newspaper market
Germany is a "newspaper market". It offers roughly 1,600 magazines, 327 daily, 21 weekly, and six Sunday newspapers. In general, the press and most publishing houses are privately owned. In 2017, 30.49 million people aged 14 and older held subscriptions to daily newspapers. Local and regional newspapers play a key role in information gathering for the general population.
Yet, even so, small local editorial offices often struggle for survival when it comes to funding and finance. Therefore, they constantly look for new ways to stay relevant, get in touch with their target audience and find new financial sources. In particular, many are combining classical newspapers with social media channels to tailor their offerings further to their audience's needs and wants.
The only newspapers that can actually claim national reach are Bild, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Welt and Frankfurter Rundschau. In addition to the printed versions, there are currently almost 700 editorial offerings available online, including websites, e-newspapers and smartphone apps, offering news on social media channels such as Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter - something set to increase in the near future.
Video killed the radio - not quite yet
Germans not only value their local daily newspapers but also enjoy listening to the radio. And just like with the newspaper market, the German radio landscape is almost completely regionalised.
There are no radio stations available for the entire country, so people in Hamburg listen to different radio stations than people in Munich - and programmes, news and advertising are always tailored to the region. This, of course, has a significant impact on how brands use this platform to reach people.
In 2017, Germans aged 14+ spent 3 hours and 12 minutes per day listening to the radio. During an average day, radio was the most frequently used medium from morning until early evening. Television was the most-consumed medium in the evening and thus scored the widest reach.
Of course, though, many German people now streaming everything from videos and games to TV shows and movies via their laptops and computers too. Therefore, in 2013 the German TV license fee system changed to a per-household charge, regardless of the number of computers, radios or TV sets in an apartment, place of business or house. This has been the source of numerous discussions on the added value of public television broadcasters and has caused tremendous resentment among the population.
Speed of innovation and trust
Germany is not known for its early adoption skills in terms of technology and especially high-speed internet. Yet, we're big on mobile phones: In 2018, there are an estimated 57 million smartphone users in Germany, with smartphones being the primary mobile route to the web-83.5% of smartphone owners polled by BurdaForward stated they used their handset every day to access the internet. E-commerce is one of the main activities boosting time spent on the mobile web. According to the same research, nearly two-fifths of smartphone owners in Germany have bought goods or services with their device.
Although we love a bit of mobile shopping, we Germans are also quite keen on our privacy. A recent survey by full-service agency Syzygy revealed that two in three Germans would not ever sell their personal data-not even to their favourite brand. In comparison, consumers in the UK and USA are much more relaxed when it comes to data privacy. In the UK, only 52 per cent would not want to sell their data, in the USA it's 55 per cent. So, it comes as no surprise that the new legislation on data privacy has made a significant impact on doing business here in Germany.
Also, when speaking of data privacy, especially online, trust is a major issue in Germany. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report Trust in Brands and Social Media shows that when it comes to trust in social media, Germany ranks third to last of all 9 countries reviewed. Indeed, a meagre 27 per cent of German consumers still trusts social media. Yet, even though they tend to be especially suspicious, they rarely delete their accounts. While 40 per cent of global respondents say they have deleted at least one of their social media accounts in the past year because they did not trust the provider to treat their personal information properly, in Germany, this only amounts to 26 per cent.
How to act?
So, what, then, do these developments mean for companies wanting to do business within the German media landscape? Consumers voice their wishes precisely: they are against fake news and expect companies to protect users from inappropriate content and keep their data safe. Also, the old saying still holds true: "content is king" - for both consumers and media specialists.
As the Trust Barometer suggests, building up an emotional connection with your audience is key. Fifty-nine per cent of German consumers expect companies to deliver customer service via social media, and 50 per cent expect them to communicate their purpose and values through online platforms. This is a big chance for companies to engage - with the right and relevant content for your audience. In other words: the time for one size fits all is long gone.
On a more hands-on level, when trying to get your messages across to media outlets, precise preparation and the right timing are mission-critical. Editorial offices are decentralised and less and less staffed, more and more journalists transfer to agencies for PR and corporate communications. Less time and more work for scaled down editorial teams means companies must convince them by content; quality always trumps quantity. Also, there is a regional focus on topics. Berlin stands for Politics, Frankfurt for Finance, Düsseldorf for Economy and Retail, Hamburg for Consumer, Fashion & Lifestyle. And in general, Corporate communications are standard for agencies and companies alike. That way, target audiences are fiercely contested.
In a nutshell
The German media landscape is complex and diverse. Newspapers are still a primary source for information, offline and online. Smartphones are on the rise, especially for e-commerce. We may not be the fastest and cheeriest to adapt new technologies, and we do not give out personal information freely. But once you are in our hearts you are there to stay. Therefore: be open. Be transparent. Be honest. And most of all: be relevant.
This article was first published on the Edelman Magazine, 7 August 2018 .