The Bild-Zeitung (often abbreviated Bild, lit. Picture Newspaper) is a German daily tabloid (now published in broadsheet newspaper published by Axel Springer AG). Its motto, prominently displayed below the logo, is unabhängig, überparteilich (independent, non-partisan).
Bild was founded by Axel Springer in 1952 and quickly became the best-selling newspaper, by a wide margin, not only in Germany, but in all of Europe. Bild is based in Hamburg. It is printed nation-wide, with 32 regional or city editions increasing its circulation. In the favoured German holiday destinations of Mallorca, the Canary Island, Istanbul and in Verona special foreign editions are printed.
Although it is still Germany's biggest paper, the circulation of Bild, along with many other papers, has been in decline in recent years. After selling more than five million copies every day in the 1980s, circulation dropped below the four million mark in 2002 for the first time in almost 30 years. By the end of 2005 the figure has dropped to 3.8 million copies . Even so, Bild is still the best-selling newspaper in Europe and has the third-largest circulation woldwide.
Bild-Zeitung was modeled after the British tabloid Daily Mirror; although its paper size is bigger, this is reflected in its mix of celebrity gossip, crime stories and political analysis. However, its articles are often considerably shorter compared to those those in British tabloids, and the whole paper is thinner as well. Bild has sometimes been known to use controversial devices like sensational headlines and topless women on its front page, as well as invented "news", to increase its readership.
From the outset, the editorial drift was unabashedly conservative. The GDR was described as a "zone" occupied by the Soviet Union until well into the 1980s, when Bild started to use the name cautiously, while still putting it in quotation marks. Bild heavily influenced public opinion against the German student movement of the years following 1967, after the assassination attempt on activist Rudi Dutschke. A common phrase in parts of society sympathetic to the students was "Bild hat mitgeschossen!" (Bild shot too). At the height of left-wing terrorism around 1977, Bild took a strong stance that could be said to have contributed to the climate of fear and suspicion.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War in Europe, Bild's stance seems to have drifted more towards centrism. Despite its general support for Germany's conservative party CDU and especially former chancellor Helmut Kohl, its rhetoric, still populist in tone, is less fierce than it was thirty years ago. Its traditionally less conservative Sunday paper Bild am Sonntag even supported Gerhard Schröder in his bid to become chancellor in 1998.
The journalistic standards of Bild, or the lack thereof, are the subject of frequent criticism by German intellectuals and media observers:
- Heinrich Böll's 1974 novel The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum used a fictional stand-in for the Bild-Zeitung to make a point about its allegedly unethical journalistic practices.
- In 2004 Bild was publicly reprimanded 12 times by the Deutscher Presserat. This amounts for a third of the reprimands this self-regulation council of the German press declared that year.
- BILDblog (), a German weblog dedicated solely to document alleged errors and fabrications in Bild articles, is among Germany's most popular blogs.
- On the day of the election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, Bild ran with the now-famous headline "Wir sind Papst" (We are Pope).
- In 2004 Bild cooperated with fast-food giant McDonald's to sell the newspaper at its 1000 fast food restaurants in Germany.
- Pretty girls in skimpy clothes - called Page Three girls in England - appear on page one in Bild as "Seite-eins-Mädchen" (Page One Girls).