With more than 10 daily newspapers, countless radio stations, and a booming start-up industry, Berlin remains one of the most competitive media markets in Europe. In the city, Germany’s leading publishers meet head-on in the fight for audience, and Berliner Morgenpost is no exception.
This intense competition makes the market challenging for publishers, who want to maintain a strong presence in Germany’s influential capital. In addition, net household income in Berlin is low in comparison to the rest of Germany, so every euro of revenue must be fought for.
In this difficult market, the Berliner Morgenpost is one of the few regional titles that has managed to achieve consistent economic success and profitability.
We are a quality daily title, focused on the Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan area. Founded in 1898 by Leopold Ullstein, the Morgenpost was acquired in 2013 by the Funke media group as part of its strategy of investing in German regional titles, along with the Hamburger Abendblatt and several magazines. Funke now holds 13 daily titles across the country, boasting a total circulation of 1.2 million copies and a readership of four million.
Following the takeover, Funke further invested in the Berlin market, establishing a core digital unit and a central economic and political newsroom — both of which serve all the titles in the group with national and international news from the capital.
The Berliner Morgenpost has also benefitted directly from this investment in the city, and its multi-award-winning interactive team has been expanded to provide its innovative journalistic products to the rest of the titles in the group.
Importantly, and in contrast to many of its competitors, Funke believes in the future of print. We are grateful for that here at the Morgenpost; we firmly believe that in a market like Berlin, it is not a question of print or digital, but the intelligent combination of both platforms in one strong media brand.
Nevertheless, print circulation has come under increasing pressure in recent years. Rather than pile our money into digital, we decided to see what we could achieve by addressing this issue directly. We conducted extensive market research, which identified broad demand for a compact (tabloid format) edition of our title, which had been previously published only in broadsheet format.
Many of our readers commute to work, and wanted a pnewsaper better designed for their mobile, urban lifestyle. Research also indicated that the stigma often associated with a tabloid format is no longer present for the majority of our readers. Many of our readers, however, still expressed a strong attachment to the traditional broadsheet version.
As such, we made the decision to publish the compact edition along with the broadsheet edition on weekdays. Both editions have the same content and advertising, adjusted to their respective formats. Both are also available at news agents for the same price, and we gave our subscribers the choice in advance as to which version they would prefer.
For the copies available at newsstands, we decided on a 50/50 split between the compact and broadsheet editions, based upon the data from our research. This initial estimation has worked out fairly well, and we have not seen the need to adjust it yet (although we are prepared to change this in response to market demand).
The rollout of the compact edition was accompanied by a brand campaign in print, online, and in cinemas, intended to reach as many Berliners as possible. The core of the campaign was a promotional video, with the song “Das ist Berlin” (This is Berlin), specifically written for the initiative.
The goal of the campaign was to position the Berliner Morgenpost as a modern regional newspaper, as well as to highlight the newspaper’s core competencies: its in-depth knowledge of Berlin and its various districts, with its unique flair.
We have now been able to effectively measure the impact of the compact edition and the campaign, and are extremely satisfied with the results. Readers’ adoption of the compact edition has been strong, and is growing. Not only have we been able to slow the decline in print circulation, but we have actually stabilized it, especially in retail sales. Brand awareness has also notably increased, which has had positive effects on our online presence.
Launching a compact edition in and of itself is by no means revolutionary, nor is it a panacea for every media title. Rather, this campaign is indicative of an important shift in priorities in the newsroom and a fundamental change in the publisher’s business model: innovation and experimentation are now at least as important as quality journalism.
Placing these activities at the core of our organization’s activities by investing in our interactive team and experimenting with new storytelling formats has presented its challenges, but we strongly believe this is our path to a sustainable and profitable future.