In 1999 werden de gratis kranten Metro en Spits in Nederland gelanceerd. Behalve die twee titels werden ook zes andere gratis dagbladen in Nederland gestart tussen 2000 en 2008. In 2007 bereikte de totale gratis oplage een hoogtepunt van bijna twee miljoen per dag. In dit artikel wordt de geschiedenis van de deze categorie kranten beschreven tegen de Europese achtergrond waar ook sprake is van een ‘levenscyclus’ met een snelle opkomst en een sterke sanering die tijdens de economische recessie inzette. Daarnaast wordt ingegaan op de voorlopers van deze mediasoort, op de lezers van gratis kranten en de gevolgen die gratis kranten op de totale krantenoplage in Nederland heeft gehad.Halfway the first decennium of the 21st century free newspapers in the Netherlands had a circulation of almost two million and were responsible for a third of the total newspaper circulation. Four national titles competed. They saw a quick rise and also a sudden decline after 2008. In 2015 only one national model remains. In this article we analyse this development against the European background as several countries in Europe show the same picture. Also the historical context of the global rise of free newspapers – going back to the late 19th century – and kickstarted in 1995 by Metro Sweden -is provided. As free newspapers rely only on advertising for income, a combination of economic  recessions and fierce competition can be lethal. Free newspapers mainly compete among themselves which explained the sudden decline in the number of titles and circulation after 2008. Also the rise of digital media could be harmful for free newspapers as they provide a attractive alternative for young readers, the target group for free newspapers. There always has been a high overlap between the readership of free and paid newspapers, suggesting low substitution. Free newspapers seem to follow a pattern of a classic ‘life cycle’ model.

Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis
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TMG Journal for Media History; Vol 18, No 1 (2015); 68-83

Bakker, Piet. (2015). Dertig jaar gratis kranten in Nederland. Voorlopers, opkomst en neergang. Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis, 18(1), 68–83. doi:10.18146/tmg.107