The largest newspaper market in Europe has no free dailies. Not any more. In fact, the country was one the first with free newspapers, it saw a real free newspaper war, and has a history of 17 years of free dailies, ending in 2013.
15 Uhr Aktuell started in Berlin in 1998; in Hamburg and Munich in 1999. All editions closed down 2000.
The Cologne newspaper war started when 20 Minuten (Schibsted) launched in Köln in December 1999. On the same day Köln Extra (Alex Springer Verlag) entered the market while a third free paper Kölner Morgen from local publisher DuMont Schauberg (Express) was launched in February, 2000. Köln Extra, Kölner Morgen and 20 Minuten closed in July 2001.
Travelers on first class DB trains and domestic flights are familiar with the compact free daily paper.
- Der Spiegel experimented with ICE-Press, a paper printed on the ICE-trains (1997 – 1999).
- Financial Times Deutschland launched FTD Kompakt in 2003 for first class travellers in ICE trains. It closed in 2006.
- In first class trains and the business class of the Lufthansa flights passengers got a special free Handelsblat edition: Handelsblatt News am Abend (1997). The paper moved in 2007 to competitor Air Berlin. The paper closed in of 2009.
- In 2006, Deutsche Sportverlag (DSV) and airline Lufthansa launched Die Sportzeitung in 12 German airports. In 2007 the paper closed down.
- In 2007 business class Lufthansa travelers got Süddeutsche Zeitung Primetime. The A4-paper had 12 to 16 pages. The paper was a downsized version of the Munich based Süddeutsche Zeitung. It closed down in November 2009. Primetime was also available as pdf-newsletter for registered users of SZ.
- Axel Springer (Bild Zeitung, Die Welt) distributed Welt Aktueel in first class trains between 2010 and 2013.
Holtzbrinck Verlag (Handelsblatt, Witschaftswoche, Tagesspiegel) launched Business News in August 2006, successor of News (2004) in Frankfurt. In June 2007 the paper closed down.
Metro planed a German launch in the fall of 2005 and talked with potential partners. One of the possible partners was Alex Springer Verlag. Also Westdeutsche Algemeine Zeitung (Essen) has been talking with Metro.
Schibsted was talking with RTL (Bertelmann), 20 Minuten wanted to launch in almost 20 markets, extending circulation to 2 million.
Bild has been preparing Gratissimo – Die kostenlose Tageszeitung für Deutschland – to launch in 8 to 15 cities. It never materialized.