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Newpaper self-service boxes for Cologne's three freesheets

Newpaper self-service boxes for Cologne's three freesheets
Source: dpa

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Newspaper war!

The Norwegian media group Schibsted launches a new daily paper in Cologne on 14 December 1999. It's called "20 Minuten Köln" and costs nothing. The public is soon inundated with freesheets on the streets and in underground stations: the competitors strikes back, sparing no cost, with "Köln Extra" and "Kölner Morgen".

Things are calm in Cologne till December. With "Kölner Stadtanzeiger", "Express" and "Kölnische Rundschau", the publisher bulletDuMont Schauberg has a near-monopoly on the local newspaper and ad market.

In fact, the print mogul can live comfortably with the other local tabloid, "Bild Köln", which is put out by Axel Springer-Verlag and has a small circulation. But both publishing groups hit the roof when the no-charge "20 Minuten Köln" hits the stands.

DuMont Schauberg counters with its own freesheet, "Kölner Morgen", and sues Schibsted; Springer does the same, distributing "Köln Extra" for nothing. They're determined to continue their freesheets until the Norwegians quit their turf.
The competition revitalises the market: the reporting becomes more candid, the papers improve.

A year and a half later the war is all over: on 11 July 2001 "20 Minuten Köln" throws in the towel for reasons of "corporate strategy". As a parting shot the "Express" swipes a "20 Minuten" interview with Cologne's new mayor Fritz Schramma, reprinting the interview without crediting its source. A few days later the other give-aways are taken off the market, and the locals have to get used to paying for their dailies again.

Wolfgang Hippe

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