10 years of 20 Minuten

20Minuten2009One of the most successful free dailies in the world, Swiss 20 Minuten, will celebrate its 10 birthday today – 10 years and 1 day after it was launched in Zurich on 13 December 1999.

Owner of the free daily is Swiss publisher Tamedia (paid paper Tages-Anzeiger, Zurich), but no Swiss publisher belonged to the founders of the paper, although they were invited to do so. At that time, Swiss publishers did not believe in free dailies, or were afraid that it would hurt their paid products.

The paper was launched by Norwegian publisher Schibsted (that launched a German version on the same day: 13 December 1999), UK investor Apax and Ernst Müller-Möhl (from 2000 on: the Müller-Mohl Gruppe).

After the launch in Zurich, it moved to Berne and Basle in October 2000, after obtaining exclusive rights on distribution through public transport Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich (VBZ). Tamedia took over from the former owners after threatening to launch a competing free daily Express in 2003.

In 2004 it started a edition in Luzern, in 2005 in St. Gallen. A year later, in March 2006, the 6th and 7th editions launched as 20 Minutes (in French) in Geneva and Lausanne while a third French edition launched in January 2007 in the Neuenburg and Jura cantons. This edition closed after Tamedia merged 20 Minutes with competitor Le Matin Bleu.

Circulation increased to 750,000 copies in 2008 – the small drop in 2009 is caused by the closure of the third French language edition. Circulation of the joint editions increased to 2 million in 2009, meaning almost 3 readers per copy (click on graph for better view).


The paper is already profitable for years, and fended off most of the competition. Only Ringier’s Blick-am-Abend (a free evening paper with a circulation of 260,000 and a readership of 350,000) remained. Metro, called Metropol in Switzerland, started soon after 20 Minuten in January 2000, but closed down in 2002. Free daily .ch started in 2007 and lasted for less than two years, Tamadia’s own NEWS was closed down earlier this month. In the French part of Switzerland Le Matin Bleu vanished.

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