Abstract: The study focuses on whether and to what extent advertisers influence the editorial content of free newspapers in the German part of Switzerland. The contribution analyzes, grounded on an historic approach, the most competitive period in Switzerland, 2008, when not less than five freesheets were competing for advertisers and public attention. By using Altmeppen’s (2006) organizational theory, the paper offers a theoretical frame able to describe the vanishing co-orientation between the media management and the newsroom, a trend that aggravates commercialization processes in news organizations. In a situation of economic turmoil, so the hypothesis, newsrooms are more inclined to positively adapt the valence of their coverage about their main advertisers in order to keep them in the portfolio. Using a content analysis, the author examined the editorial coverage of six among the most important advertisers of Swiss free newspapers, carrying out an aggregated statistical analysis based on logistic regression. The study revealed that free newspapers with a strong market orientation display a higher chance to publish positive facts and evaluations about advertisers with a high advertising expenditure.
Keywords: advertising; commercialization; free newspapers; journalism; media accountability