Two of Estonia's major national daily newspapers, Postimees and Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) saw a fall in print run circulation in 2019, ERR reports. Only Õhtuleht bucked the trend and enjoyed circulation growth, while Postimees Grupp and Ekspress Meedia, owners of Postimees and EPL respectively and the two major private media companies in the country highlighted their growth in digital subscriptions.
The falling paper sales figures came from the Association of Media Enterprises (EALL).
According to the EALL, Postimees reached a historic low of 37,600 copies printed in the month of December, a decline of 12 percent (from 43,600) on year. Monthly circulation fell below 40,000 for the first time in April, which then-editor-in-chief Peeter Helme claimed at the time was seasonal and would be followed by a rally in sales, which never came.
Postimees' December figures were approximately the same as rival EPL's in November 2008, ERR reports.
Andrus Raudsalu, Postimees Group Board Chair, says that the decline is the result of growing digital subs.
"In our case, both the circulation and the decline in paper subscribers have been influenced by strong growth in digital subscribers; in 2019, we have tripled the number of digital subscribers to Postimees," Raudsalu said, without giving a concrete figure, though promising to do so via the EALL in future.
The EALL only started collecting digital subscriptions data three months ago as a trial run and has no legacy figures, the organization says.
EALL chair Mart Raudsaar, the union's chief executive. He added that while the plan was to release them early this year, it would first require a decision by the Council, which has not yet been made.
Andrus Raudsalu also said that his paper was in better shape than competitor EPL, adding circulation could be manipulated.
"In percentage terms, the circulation of EPL has seen the biggest drop; comparing print runs does not give the full picture, as circulation can be artificially increased. Many of our competitors are carrying out different types of extra print runs at the end of the year, for horoscopes and the like. All this, however, distorts the real picture," Raudsalu claimed.
Eesti Päevaleht (EPL)
EPL's circulation stood at 13,500 in December 2019, down from 15,500 the previous December – a 13 percent fall.
Ekspress Meedia managing director Argo Virkebau, Managing Director of Ekspress Meedia, said that it reduced print run in anticipation of falling sales.
"It doesn't make sense to bring as many papers to the point of sale. Orders have been more or less stable - with a minimal drop," Virkebau explained.
"I also compared Postimees' circulation. Their percentage decline is practically the same [as ours]," he said (see above).
Virkebau added that digital subscriptions are rising, with people switching from paper to digital as well, though also did not provide figures.
Õhtuleht had the largest paper circulation in December 2019 at 44,800, up from 42,600 the previous month, and up by 600 copies on the previous December.
In other words, Õhtuleht's growth at 1.4 percent was a lot smaller than Postimees and EPL's decline in circulation.
In terms of sales, December was also strong, Erik Heinsaar, Head of Õhtuleht Kirjastuse, said, though he deined that a direct mail campaing which saw the paper given free to selected mailboxes in the same month was behind this.
"I would not like to specify the exact size and distribution areas of this area for confidentiality reasons, but I can say that we do this [free paper sharing] as a symbolic gesture on a monthly basis, mainly as a promotional campaign"
"But it doesn't mean it will stay this way. If the scheme were to be eliminated, it would also have a purely cosmetic effect on the average monthly print run – in other words, the amount [of free distribution] is not large for the month," he said.
As noted, Õhtuleht does publish its digital subscriptions data, which it says stood at 12,600 at year end, an annual growth rate of 3 percent.
"These are all paying customers," Heinsaar emphasized, noting that after factoring-in a subscriptions promotion which ended during 2019 and led to the loss of 700 subscribers, net subscriptions growth was acutally higher, and is projected at 10 percent for 2020.
Äripäev, weeklies, magazines and regional papers
Business daily Äripäev, owned by the Swedish Bonnier media company, had a print run 600 less than the previous December, at year end, standing at 6,700 copies.
Weeklies Maaleht and Eesti Ekspress, part of the Ekspress Meedia group, had circulations of 54,000 and 24,100 respectively in December. Maaleht's figure was significantly higher than its usual level of around 15,000, due to extra print runs of items like annual horoscopes.
Two papers, both of them part of Postimees Grupp, had a circulation figure over 10,000 – namely Tartu Postimees on 15,100 copies and Pärnu Postimees on 11,300 copies. Sakala, Postimees' Viljandi County regional paper, had a print run of 7,600. All of these were relatively unchanged through the year, it is reported.
Magazine Teleleht had a circulation of 35,800, with lifestyle publications Kroonika and Naisteleht on 29,900 and 26,100 respectively, in December. This was the first time Kroonika had fallen below the 30,000 mark.
Editor: Andrew Whyte