A Day in the Life What Makes the Average German Tick?

Part 9: How Germans Read and Watch TV


7:00 p.m. How the Germans read and watch TV

When Germans stay at home, they watch a lot of TV -- a full 208 minutes a day, in fact. And viewership has been rising in recent years. The only other place where Germans spend more time than in front of the TV is in bed, where they spend 428 minutes. The country begins to congregate in front of the TV at between 6:00 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.

Fifty-five percent of viewers are women. Most viewers have turned off the set by 11:30 p.m., by then only a few are still watching. Eighty-nine percent of Germans watch TV every day, which they use to provide information, entertainment and relaxation. Germans share more than eight hours of their day with television, the radio, newspapers, magazines and the Internet -- and with up to 3,000 advertising messages to which they are exposed daily. The economy spends €21 billion ($33.6 billion) a year to attract the attention of Germans, running ads and developing commercials, which finance the nation's primary source of entertainment. However, when commercials are on TV, about 9 percent of women and 14 percent of men immediately switch channels.

The man who has an overview of all this is standing in the bookstore at the Düsseldorf train station, reaching for a women's magazine, with its heavy paper and glossy pages. A book, the "Big Annual Horoscope," is attached to the cover. Twenty-six percent of women, but only 11 percent of men, take horoscopes seriously.

Media agencies in Germany research what kind of women buy Vogue.
obs/Vogue

Media agencies in Germany research what kind of women buy Vogue.

Christian von den Brincken, 39, is the managing director and head of research for MediaCom, Germany's largest media agency. It's his job to make sure that his clients' advertising is placed so that it reaches as many interested people as possible. And to do his job well, Brincken has to know what Germans watch, listen to and read, and why someone would buy Vogue instead of Lisa.

"Most of all, the reader is buying the magazine's promise," he says. In some cases, it's a 90-cent deal, for which the reader gets crossword puzzles, gossip and the 50 top recipes for minced meat. In others, a magazine goes for a pricy €9 ($14) and offers its readers exclusivity, luxury and excess. "Women buy Elle and Vogue because they're the opposite of cheap," says Brincken, standing in front of the shop's "lifestyle" shelf. "They hope that some of the glamour will rub off on them."

The market is big and crowded. There are roughly 2,500 publications in Germany, more than in almost any other country on earth. No niche is too small to support additional small-circulation publications. Ten different tattoo magazines and scores of model railroad publications are crowded together on the shelf. Customers spend an average of €370 ($592) on the magazines, newspapers and books that they know and like.

In no other country is media use studied so carefully. The Germans listen to the radio and read the paper in the morning, surf the Net on their lunch hours and spend their evenings in front of the TV. They use the media more intensively in the winter than in the summer, in the evening than in the morning, and rarely as much as on Sundays. Men spend more time using the media than women. Three-quarters of media consumption is of radio and television, while three-quarters of radio use is secondary. About 60 percent of Germans surf the Web, which men do for a significantly longer time than women, who spend more of their time reading books and magazines.

These are the facts. We can gather data that tell us how the Germans utilize the media, but our capacity to understand the data is limited. When Brincken tries to explain why someone uses a particular medium, he uses words like openness, trust and even love. Sometimes he sounds like a couples therapist, which isn't far off the mark. He is interested in a relationship: between the product and the potential buyer.

His mission is to bring the two together in the most favorable environment possible, to serve as a matchmaker for the romance-obsessed viewer of the film "Titanic" and sensual chocolate advertising, or for a men's magazine reader bursting with testosterone and the masculine ads for home improvement stores.

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