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Population: 84 million
Internet penetration: 94%
17th June 2024

The German market has a number of national and regional public broadcasters that compete for audiences with powerful commercial operators (including Axel Springer and Bertelsmann). Much of the press still operates from a regional or local standpoint and has struggled to adapt its business models to digital. Now the next wave of disruption is hitting newsrooms with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI).

Public awareness of artificial intelligence remains somewhat limited, but already the majority of Germans are sceptical about its use in the newsroom. Only 14% of those surveyed are comfortable with using news mainly produced by AI. However, when news is mainly produced by journalists with assistance from AI, the proportion increases to one in three (36%). Meanwhile, German newsrooms are witnessing an increased utilisation of AI primarily to assist news production, potentially freeing up resources for in-depth investigations and enhancing reader engagement. For instance, the public broadcaster ZDF uses AI for live television broadcast captioning. The national weekly newspaper Die ZEIT is experimenting with an AI-based application to answer reader questions on current events from its archives. For digital subscribers with little time, the national daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) offers an AI-generated summary of selected news articles within its news app.

The deal between the Axel Springer media company, owner of Germany's most popular tabloid newspaper Bild, and OpenAI has also caused quite a stir. Axel Springer has agreed to supply ChatGPT with selected content from its news brands, including Bild, Die Welt, Politico, and Business Insider, to train ChatGPT to provide information on current events. For Axel Springer the incentive is that the ChatGPT responses will link to the full Springer articles, the company will reportedly receive very significant funding for use of their content, and OpenAI will support Springer in its own AI-driven projects. In light of Springer’s digital-only strategy, the increasing use of AI is also seen as a way to save costs, i.e. through significant job cuts.

Following a slight increase in revenues in 2023, the overall advertising market saw a marked rise in January and February 2024 (+11% compared to the previous year). However, the proportion of our survey respondents who say that they are paying for online news remains low at 13%. Among the titles mentioned most frequently in this context were regional or local daily newspapers, Bild, and Die Welt. The paywalled site Bildplus now has over 700,000 subscribers, the biggest subscriber base in the German-speaking world. So while Bild’s circulation fell below the 1 million mark by the end of 2023, falling print revenues are finally being compensated by growth in digital.1

The digital transformation of the newspaper industry is accelerating due to significantly increased costs of print production and delivery. Following Bild and Die Welt’s mid-2023 announcement that they were ending home delivery of their Sunday editions, other brands, such as Tagesspiegel, Berliner Morgenpost, or Hamburger Morgenpost replaced some of their printed editions. In rural areas, some print editions have either stopped or are no longer being delivered, but getting people to switch to digital papers can be difficult. For example, in May 2023 the Ostthüringer Zeitung discontinued its print edition in rural parts of its circulation area in Thuringia. Within a year, 45% of subscriptions were cancelled.

The downward trend in news trust in Germany stabilised this year. However, there is an increase in attacks and hostility towards journalists, often linked to investigations into right-wing extremism. Furthermore, during some of the so-called farmer protests, which are primarily directed against the Green government party, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen entire media houses were blocked by protesters, e.g., preventing newspaper delivery trucks leaving the buildings.

In March 2023 the Broadcasting Commission of the federal states established a so-called Future Council to develop a long-term perspective for German PSB.2 The committee has eight experts from the fields of science, media law, and journalism and in January 2024 published its first recommendations. It suggested that German PSBs should become more digital and efficient, while better fulfilling its public service mandate. Among other things, the experts called for structural reforms, a shared digital platform for ARD, ZDF, and Deutschlandradio, as well as a new (ex-post) funding procedure based on whether the institutions have fulfilled their public service mandate, i.e. in terms of reaching all parts of society and aspects of their content being sufficiently distinctive. While the recommendations are only advisory, they certainly increase the pressure for far-reaching reforms within the German PSB.

Julia Behre, Judith Möller, and Sascha Hölig
Leibniz Institute for Media Research, Hans Bredow Institute, Hamburg

Changing media

Weekly reach for both TV news and print is near all-time lows, with online and social media not making up the gap.

Pay for online news


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Trust in news overall



Trust in news has stabilised after a 7 percentage point drop from last year, but remains at a lower level than before the COVID bump, with regional or local newspapers and PSB news being the most trusted brands in the list surveyed. Despite its wide reach, the national tabloid Bild still has the lowest ratings.

RSF World Press Freedom Index


Score 83.84

Measure of press freedom from NGO Reporters Without Borders based on expert assessment. More at


1 See DW piece

2 See report

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