German daily sent to all 41 million households

BERLIN, June 23 Sat Jun 23, 2012 10:06am EDT

BERLIN, June 23 (Reuters) - Germany's best-selling newspaper was given away free to almost all of the country's 41 million households on Saturday in a controversial celebration of the daily's 60th anniversary that set a world record for largest circulation.

Bild newspaper - a tabloid-style daily both feared and respected for its massive influence in Germany but also known for its hard-hitting campaigns and photos of nude women - sent 41 million copies to all but 200,000 postal addresses of people who expressly requested not to receive Saturday's newspaper.

"Free Bild for everyone!" wrote the daily in two-inch high letters on page one above an open letter from editor in chief Kai Dieckmann. "Bild is celebrating its 60th birthday today. And this newspaper is a birthday present for you," he wrote.

Bild said Guinness World Records in Germany has certified the print run as "the largest circulation for the free special edition of a newspaper".

Bild, which likes to pride itself for having its finger on the pulse of what makes ordinary Germans tick, normally costs 70 cents per issue.

Critics of the newspaper organised a boycott of the free delivery and about 200,000 people filled out forms requested they not receive the Saturday edition. Bild said that represented 0.6 percent of German households.

"I don't want that rag in my house even if they give it away for free," said Yvonne Wagner, a 43-year-old secretary in Berlin. "I don't want to read it and I wouldn't even want to use it to wrap fish in or to stuff my wet shoes with it."

According to media reports, Bild had a daily circulation in the 1980s of 5 million before falling to about 3 million now. (Editing by Alison Williams)