The rise and fall of free newspapers in Western Europe

In 2007, in 31 European countries 27 million free newspapers per day were distributed every day. It was the highest circulation ever in Europe, 12 years after the start of free dailies in 1995 in the Swedish capital Stockholm.

The subsequent crisis took a heavy toll, ad revenue declined rapidly so that the only source of income dried up quickly. In the following years circulation dropped to 15 million in 2012.

Of the 140 free newspapers in 2007, five yearslater 75 survived. In almost every country one or two titles remained. Competition was replaced by monopoly.

For the Danish academic journal Journalistica I analyzed how free newspapers developed inn Western Europe.

In the four Nordic countries with free dailies (no free dailies in Norway) a huge growth showd in 2006/2007 – followed by an equally impressive decline. Free newspapers did not disappeared . In Sweden it went from three national titles to only one (Metro), in Denmark from 11 titles in 2006 to only one in 2013 and in Finland and Iceland from two to one. In 2006, the total circulation was 3.8 million, in 2013, 1.1 million.


The article also examines developments in German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Luxembourg), UK/Ireland and the Netherlands/Belgium.

The whole issue of Journalistica can be downloaded from this location (PDF) for free. My chapter is available for download here : The life cycle of a free newspaper business model newspaper- rich markets.

2 Responses to “The rise and fall of free newspapers in Western Europe”

  1. “Journalism in an industry”, special issue | Says:

    [...] Piet Bakker: The life cycle of a free newspaper business model in newspaper-rich markets [...]

  2. Il declino della free press: saturazione del mercato e nascita dei monopoli | LSDI Says:

    [...] dà notizia sul suo sito,, lo stesso Bakker, spiegando di aver analizzato in particolare lo sviluppo del mercato della free [...]