BERLIN: Newspaper publishers in Germany are making increased use of social media to connect with consumers, despite the challenges these services pose to retaining their readership and advertiser base.

BDZV, the industry body, surveyed 130 executives, representing newspapers owned by 60 publishers, as well as assessing 400 leading websites in the sector.

Overall, 87% of titles used social channels on a daily basis to draw attention to their content. Within this group, 96% were present on Facebook, 50% leveraged YouTube and 40% had Twitter feeds.

Another 77% of organisations active on Web 2.0 properties also monitored online buzz via this route, alongside 60% participating in promotional initiatives and 38% aiming to collaborate with consumers.

Indeed, 22% of featured publications had utilised tools like Facebook Polls and tracked internet chatter to learn more about issues of importance to their audience, and wider views on the role of newspapers.

To encourage engagement, 95% of titles allowed readers to comment on articles and 84% enabled visitors to rate material, such as through "liking" articles on Facebook or awarding a star rating.

Around two-thirds of companies were also trying to involve users in the content creation process, although this lagged the 95% deploying social channels for "one-to-many" communications.

More broadly, 81% of firms had installed at least some social media tools, like a YouTube video player or Twitter sharing buttons, on their websites.

A further 56% employed similar widgets from social bookmarking services such as Digg, and 37% had already created their own branded online communities.

Hans-Joachim Fuhrmann, an executive vice president at BDZV, said: "Facebook and Co. are tough competitors when it comes to claiming the attention of users and the budgets of advertisers."

However, he added that these platforms provided new ways for content creators, and their advertising clients, to attract consumers.

"Social networks like Facebook and Twitter offer new opportunities for publishers to redefine the classic role of the newspaper as a "community organiser".

Data sourced from BDZV; additional content by Warc staff