One of the features of the Swiss media market that first strikes foreigners is the apparently robust health of its print media. Newsagents seem packed with titles and relatively high levels of newspaper and magazine readership sit at odds with the experience in other major European countries.
This is all changing – and the shift from print to digital is accelerating, however, according to a major new entertainment and media industry analysis by PwC.
The pandemic has emphasized the rate of change, hitting both print circulation and advertising as lockdowns cut the numbers of people buying papers on the journey to and from work.
Newspaper industry revenues are expected to fall from CHF 968 million in 2020 to CHF 842 million by 2025, a drop of -2.3% annually.
While major media owners are moving over to new platforms this is not without difficulty. Publishers are running into the age-old problem that users think digital equates to free content. Finding new ways of monetising digital audiences will be key if publishers are to survive.
Competing with TikTok and Snapchat
Media companies are shifting to digital models, producing more audio and video content, but even so they will have their work cut out to compete for revenue and reader attention from established rivals such as Google and Facebook to emerging forces like TikTok and Snapchat.
There have been some successes: The free German-language tabloid Blick launched in francophone Switzerland in June. Its owner, Ringier, has also launched an online TV channel. Meanwhile, the biggest online news site in French – http://www.20min.ch/fr – increased audiences across its various channels (print newspaper, app and website) in 2020 to reach nearly 3.0mn readers each day.
That’s pretty impressive when you consider the country has a population of just 8.7 million, though it reflects traditionally high level of news readership and the fact that trust in traditional news sources here remains high at 44%.
Online advertising is the place to be, however. Switzerland’s Internet advertising market is already the sixth biggest in Western Europe, with total revenue of CHF 3.2bn in 2020. This is expected to increase at a combined annual growth rate of 6.5% to reach CHF 4.4bn by 2025, making Switzerland the third-fastest growing market in the region.
The impact of 5G
While online advertising continues to grow, PwC sees a surge in mobile ad revenue following the increasing take-up of 5G between now and 2025.
Switzerland is something of a trailblazer for 5G in Europe. It is now available to most of the population through two major providers, Swisscom and Sunrise. Revenue from mobile ads overtook that of wired for the first time in 2019, when it accounted for 54.1% of total revenue. By 2025 mobile will make up 64.4% of total Internet advertising revenue in Switzerland.
It adds up to a huge challenge for traditional media companies, who must adapt their business models quickly, or die. Those packed news stands in Switzerland may soon become a thing of the past.