The Bild newspaper (or Bild-Zeitung, literally Picture; [ˈbɪlt]) is a Germantabloid published by Axel Springer AG. The paper is published from Monday to Saturday; on Sundays, its sister paper Bild am Sonntag ("Bild on Sunday") is published instead, which has a different style and its own editors. Bild is tabloid in style but broadsheet in size. It is the best-selling European newspaper and has the sixteenth-largest circulation worldwide. Bild has been described as "notorious for its mix of gossip, inflammatory language, and sensationalism" and as having a huge influence on German politicians. Its nearest English-language stylistic and journalistic equivalent is often considered to be the British national newspaper The Sun, the second highest selling European tabloid newspaper, with which it shares a degree of rivalry.
Der Spiegel wrote in 2006 that Bild "flies just under the nonsense threshold of American and British tabloids ... For the German desperate, it is a daily dose of high-resolution soft porn". According to The Guardian, for 28 years from 1984 to 2012, Bild had topless women featuring on its first page; the paper published more than 5,000 topless pictures.
Bild was founded by Axel Springer in 1952. It mostly consisted of pictures (hence the name Bild, German for picture). Bild soon became the best-selling tabloid, by a wide margin, not only in Germany, but in all of Europe, though essentially to German readers. Through most of its history, Bild was based in Hamburg. The paper moved its headquarters to Berlin in March 2008, stating that it was an essential base of operations for a national newspaper. It is printed nationwide with 32 localized editions. Special editions are printed in some favoured German holiday destinations abroad such as Spain, Italy, Turkey and Greece.
Bild sold more than five million copies every day in the 1980s. In 1993 the paper had a circulation of slightly more than four million copies, making it the most read newspaper in the country. In the period of 1995–96 its circulation was 4,300,000 copies. In 2001 Bild was the most read newspaper in Europe and also, in Germany with a circulation of 4,396,000 copies.
Although it is still Germany's biggest paper, the circulation of Bild, along with many other papers, has been on the decline in recent years. By the end of 2005, the figure dropped to 3.8 million copies. Its 2010 circulation was 3,548,000, making the paper the fifth in the list of the world's biggest selling newspapers.
Bild is published in tabloid format. In the paper's beginnings, Springer was influenced by the model of the British tabloid Daily Mirror, although Bild's paper size is larger, this is reflected in its mix of celebrity gossip, crime stories and political analysis. However, its articles are often considerably shorter compared to those in British tabloids, and the whole paper is thinner as well. Bild has been known to use controversial devices such as the sensational headlines and invented "news" to increase its readership.
In June 2012, Bild celebrated its 60th anniversary by giving away free newspapers to almost all of Germany's 41 million households. Bild said Guinness World Records in Germany has certified the print run as "the largest circulation for the free special edition of a newspaper". In 2018 on average 2,2 million copies of the paper were printed across Germany.
In 2019 Bild started an attempt to place a weekly politic newspaper, named Bild Politik.
Editors work on producing an issue of Bild, 1977 in West Berlin. Previous front pages are affixed to the wall behind them.
From the outset, the editorial drift was conservative and nationalist. The GDR was referred to as the Soviet Occupation Zone (German: Sowjetische Besatzungszone or SBZ). The usage continued well into the 1980s, when Bild began to use the GDR's official name cautiously, putting it in quotation marks. Bild (along with fellow Springer tabloid B.Z.) heavily influenced public opinion against the German student movement and left-wing terrorism in the years following 1966, and was blamed by some for the climate that contributed to the assassination attempt on activist Rudi Dutschke in 1968—a popular catchphrase in left-wing circles sympathetic to student radicalism was "Bild hat mitgeschossen!" ("Bild shot at him too!").
After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War in Europe, Bild's editorial stance seems to have become more centrist. Despite its general support for Germany's conservative parties 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, a Social Democrat, in his bid for chancellor in 1998.
On the day of the election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as PopeBenedict XVI, Bild ran with the headline "Wir sind Papst" ("We are Pope"). In 2004, Bild started to cooperate with fast-food giant McDonald's to sell the tabloid at its 1,000 fast food restaurants in Germany. The cooperation still goes on, often enough by advertising the restaurant chain in "news" articles. Young women in skimpy clothes appeared on Bild's page one below the fold as Seite-eins-Mädchen or "Page One Girls". On 9 March 2012 Bild announced the elimination of the "Page One Girls", instead moving its fleshy photos to its inside pages.
Despite being often recognised as a right-wing publication, in January 2015 Bild began a petition against PEGIDA, an anti-Islamisation protest group.
Its motto, prominently displayed below the logo, is unabhängig, überparteilich ("independent, nonpartisan"). Another slogan used prominently in advertising is Bild dir deine Meinung!, which translates as "Form your own opinion!" (by reading Bild), a pun based on the fact that, in German, Bild is a homophone of the imperative form of the verbbilden (English: to form, to build, to educate) and the nounBild (English: picture, image).
It is argued Bild's thirst for sensationalism results in the terrorizing of prominent celebrities and stories are frequently based on the most dubious evidence. The journalistic standards of Bild are the subject of frequent criticism.
BILDblog [de] (), a German weblog that when founded was dedicated solely to documenting errors and fabrications in Bild articles, is among Germany's most popular blogs. In 2005 BILDblog received the Grimme Online Award for its work. Since 2009 BILDblog also reports on errors and fabrications in other newspapers from Germany and elsewhere.
Heinrich Böll's 1974 novel The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, and the 1975 movie based on it, used a fictional stand-in for Bild to make a point about its allegedly unethical journalistic practices. Böll's essay in the edition of 10 January 1972 of Der Spiegel (titled "Will Ulrike Gnade oder freies Geleit? [de]) was sharply critical of Bild's sensationalist coverage of the Baader-Meinhof Gang. In the essay, Böll stated that what Bild does "isn’t cryptofascist anymore, not fascistoid, but naked fascism. Agitation, lies, dirt."
In 1977 investigative journalist Günter Wallraff worked for four months as an editor for the Bild tabloid in Hanover, giving himself the pseudonym of "Hans Esser". In his books Der Aufmacher ("Lead Story") and Zeugen der Anklage ("Witnesses for the Prosecution") he portrays his experiences on the editorial staff of the paper and the journalism which he encountered there. The staff commonly displayed contempt for humanity, a lack of respect for the privacy of ordinary people and widespread conduct of unethical research and editing techniques. Wallraff's investigations were also the basis for the 1990 film The Man Inside.
In 2004 Bild was publicly reprimanded twelve times by the Deutscher Presserat [de] (German Press Council). This amounts for a third of the reprimands this self-regulation council of the German press declared that year. As of 2012, it receives more reprimands from this watchdog body than any other newspaper.
Spiegel magazine often accuses Bild of pushing Germany further right and questions Bild's moral standards and journalistic quality.
Judith Holofernes, lead singer of German band Wir sind Helden, wrote a scathing open letter to Bild's advertising agency after they asked her to star in their latest campaign. "Bild is not a harmless guilty pleasure", she wrote, but a "dangerous political instrument—not only a high-magnification telescope into the abyss but an evil creature".
In 2014 Sophia Becker and Kristina Lunz launched a campaign, Stop Bild Sexism, to end the use of sexualized images of women in Bild. The campaign was inspired by the No More Page 3 campaign to get The Sun in the UK to stop publishing images of half-naked women on page 3. Lunz argues that Bild's frequent use of images of unclothed women makes its reporting of sexual assault and harassment "sexist and voyeuristic." Becker says that Bild contributes to the normalisation of sexism in German society. The petition had over 35,000 signatures in January 2015, and Springer, the newspaper's publisher, responded by issuing a statement of values. These include the importance of mutual respect and maintaining respectful interactions.Bild stopped publishing "topless productions of our own with women" in March 2018, three years after The Sun, while continuing to publish photos of provocatively-posed models dressed in underwear alone.
The Berlin offices have a 19-storey paternoster lift, whose continued operation was vigorously defended editorially by the newspaper.