Press publishing market in 2021 indicates unceasing fall in paid circulation but a rising trend in advertising revenue

The Croatian Competition Agency (CCA) carried out its regular market investigation into the Croatian press publishing market in 2021 with the view to defining the market shares of the relevant market participants.

The market study included a total of 31 newspaper publishers and distributors. The market study included the following markets: press circulation (general information dailies and weeklies), print advertising in general information dailies and weeklies and press distribution in the territory of the Republic of Croatia.

In 2021 there were four publishers less than in 2020. The weekly Imperial published by Imperijal Jučer Danas Sutra d.o.o. discontinued in October 2020, the general information daily Narodni list in March 2020. One free semi-monthly publication and one daily with a negligent revenue have been excluded from the survey.

The reason and need for conducting the study in question primarily stems from the provisions of the Media Act, Official Gazette, 59/04, 84/11 and 81/13; hereinafter: ZoM) as a special regulation which, among other things, regulates competition in the field of public information (Article 1 paragraph 1 of ZoM). In this sense, in order to achieve the principle of freedom, i.e., independence and pluralism of the media, ZoM excludes the application of general competition rules. Furthermore, the provision of Article 37, paragraph 1 of ZoM stipulates that any concentration of the undertakings active in the circulation of general information dailies, i.e., on the market of general information weeklies, by which the market share of the participants of a concrete concentration of undertakings after its implementation would exceed 40 percent of the total sold circulation of general information dailies or weeklies in the Republic of Croatia, shall be prohibited.

The market shares in the relevant markets were defined based on paid circulation – the number of copies sold and revenues realized by the undertakings concerned in the press advertising market, press wholesale and press retail.

Daily newspapers paid circulation market

There were 37.2 million copies of general information dailies sold in Croatia in 2021. In comparison with the preceding year this was a fall by 13 per cent, when the study recorded 42.9 million copies sold. This fall is less significant than in 2020 compared to 2019 when it was 19 per cent. Almost all dailies recorded the circulation fall compared with 2020. Only the daily La Voce del Popolo sold more copies than in 2020.

The largest circulation sold in 2021, as in previous years, was achieved by the newspaper “24sata” (Styria Group), with a market share of 30 to 40 percent, with the continuation of the trend of falling sales. The decline in the sold circulation of the “24sata” was milder than in the previous survey for 2020, with a slight decline in market share. It was followed by the “Večernji list” (Styria Group), with a market share of 10 to 20 percent and a slight decline in market share. The “Jutarnji list” (Hanza Media Group) is third in terms of sold circulation, with a market share of 10 to 20 percent, with a slight decrease in sold circulation compared to the previous year in 2020.

A significant amount of the sold circulation in 2021 was achieved by the publishers of the general information dailies the “Slobodna Dalmacija” (Hanza Media Group) with a market share of 10 to 20 percent and the “Novi list” (Glas Istre Group) with a market share of 5 to 10 percent, which at the same time, recorded a slight increase in the market share. Both dailies are regional and recorded a decline in sales in 2021 compared with 2020. The remaining four regional and local publishers (the “Voice of Istria”, the “Glas Slavonije”, the “Zadarski list”, the “La Voce del Popolo”) recorded a market share of 0-5 percent, the same as in the previous year 2020.

The ownership structure revealed that, in the dailies market, the highest share of 50 to 60 percent was held by Styria AG (the “24 sata” and the “Večernji list”), with a slight fall in market share compared to the previous year. At the same time, a change in the trend of the joint market share of both Styria Group publishers was noted, from the positive trend of slight growth in 2020 to the negative trend of a slight decline in the joint market share in 2021.

The second was Hanza Media Group (the “Jutarnji list” and the “Slobodna Dalmacija”) with a share of 30 to 40 percent and a change in trend from negative to positive, i.e., a slight increase in the joint market share in 2021 compared with 2020.

The third group of publishers Glas Istre (the “Novi list”, the “Glas Istre” and the “Zadarski list”) achieved a common market share of 10 to 20 percent with a slightly rising common market share.

The data on foreign general information dailies were obtained from the only national distributor TISAK plus d.o.o. and the undertaking Inovine d.d., Zagreb. TISAK plus d.o.o. held the largest share in the number of copies of foreign general information dailies, i.e., 85 percent, which was the same as in 2020. The undertaking VIBM d.o.o. stopped printing foreign newspapers through Press Reader Inc. since in November 2020.

In 2021, publishers also created new business models – development of new platforms, introduction of digital subscription, additional optimization and reduction of business costs due to the drop in sales caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Weeklies paid circulation market

The paid circulation of the general information weeklies, including a couple of semi-monthlies, such as Globus and Virovitički list that became a semi-monthly in March 2020, dropped by 5 per cent in comparison with 2020. There was a total of 2.2 million of copies sold in 2021 compared with 2020 when 2.3 million copies were sold. In 2021 the fall was less significant than in the previous report period (in 2020 compared with 2019 the fall had been 20 per cent).

Most of the weeklies recorded a decrease in the circulation sold in 2021 compared to 2020, apart from six weeklies that recorded slight growth in the circulation sold: “7dnevno”, “Tjednik Nacional”, “Međimurske novine”, “Vinkovački list”, “Virovički list” ” and “Jednota”. There were more significant changes considering the first three general information weeklies, in contrast to the market of sold circulation of general information dailies.

The best sold general information weekly in 2021 was “Međimurje” published by List Međimurje d.o.o., which recorded a trend of declining sales in 2021 compared to 2020. Second in terms of circulation sold in 2021 was the general information weekly “7Dnevno”, of the newspaper publisher Singar d.o.o., which moved from third to second position.

“Hrvatski tjednik”, of the newspaper publisher Tempus d.o.o., Zadar, was the third in terms of circulation sold, falling from second to third position. The first three listed general information weeklies in the observed year of 2021 recorded a market share of 10-15 percent, the same as in the previous year.

The fourth and the fifth place was taken by the weeklies with a distinctly national dimension, the weekly “Nacional” published by Nacional News Corporation d.o.o. and “24sata Express” (Styria Group), with a market share of less than 10 percent. The biweekly “Globus” published by Hanza Media d.o.o. took the ninth position.

The publisher Hanza Media d.o.o. is also one of the founders of Dubrovački vjesnik d.o.o. that is the publisher of the general information weekly “Dubrovački vjesnik”. Looking at the market share of “Globus” and “Dubrovački vjesnik” together, Hanza Media Group recorded a market share of 10 to 15 percent in the market of sold weekly circulation.

It should be noted that in addition to Hanza Media d.o.o. and Styria Group, there was one more publisher of a general information daily that held the equity share in the individual publisher of a general information weekly. The publisher of the general information daily Glas Slavonije d.d. had a 13.07 percent share in the share capital of the undertaking Glas Podravine d.o.o., Koprivnica, that is the publisher of the general information weekly Glas Podravine i Prigorja.

Digital sales still have a small share in the structure of the number of weeklies’ copies sold.

Print advertising market – dailies and weeklies

The total revenue that the publishers made from advertising in the daily papers in 2021 was 124.5 million Kuna (117.3 million Kuna in 2020) or 7.2 million Kuna or 6 per cent higher than in the previous year.

In other words, the report year of 2020 reversed the negative trend in the dailies advertising market (21 per cent fall in 2020 in comparison with 2019) that had lasted for a longer period.

Three out of nine publishers of general information dailies recorded a decline in advertising revenue, while six publishers recorded an increase. For the sake of comparison, in 2020, out of the nine observed publishers of general information dailies, eight recorded a decline, while only one had an increase in advertising revenue (the “Zadarski list”).

The highest market share in 2021, from 10 to 20 percent, was held by the publisher of the “Slobodna Dalmacija” (Hanza Media), with a slight decrease in revenue from advertising in dailies compared to 2020, taking it from second to first position in this advertising market. It was followed by “Novi list d.d.” with a market share of 10 to 20 percent and a stronger increase in revenue from advertising in dailies. The third was the “Jutarnji list” published by Hanza Media d.o.o. with a market share of 10 to 20 percent.

The publisher of the “Večernji list”, the undertaking Večernji list d.o.o., was fourth with a market share of 10 to 20 percent and the growth of advertising revenue, whereas the fifth publisher was Glas Istre Novine d.o.o. with a market share of less than 10 percent.

As for the revenue from advertising in general information weeklies in 2021, it amounted to HRK 27.7 million, and compared to 2020, a slight revenue rising trend of four percent was recorded. At the same time, the opposite trend of growth in revenue from advertising in general information weeklies was recorded, as the previous study for 2020 indicated stagnation.

Looking at the weekly publishers individually in 2021, there had been changes in the order of the top three publishers and their respective advertising revenue. The publisher Nacional News Corporation d.o.o. is the first in terms of revenue from advertising from its weekly “Nacional”, and held a market share of 10 to 20 percent, with the rising advertising revenue and a move from third to first position. The second publisher is List Međimurje d.o.o. with the general information daily “Međimurje”, with a market share of 10 – 20 percent and rising advertising revenue. The third is the publisher Varaždinske vijesti d.d. that held a market share of around 10 percent and rising advertising revenue. It moved from fourth to third position.

The publisher Dubrovački vjesnik d.o.o., which is part of the Hanza Media Group, with the weekly of the same name, recorded a drop from the first to the fifth position and held a market share of less than 10 percent, and a decrease in the weeklies’ advertising revenue.

The combined market share of Hanza Media Group in this market in 2021 was 10-20 percent (“Dubrovacki vjesnik” and “Globus”).

Out of the total of 21 publishers of general information weeklies that recorded revenue from advertising in the weeklies, a total of 13 of them saw growth in advertising revenue, of which 11 had a double-digit growth in advertising revenue.

A negative trend, i.e., a decline in the weekly advertising revenue was recorded by eight publishers. For the sake of comparison, out of the total of 23 publishers of general information weeklies in the previous year, 13 of them indicated a decline in advertising revenue in 2020.

Press distribution market – wholesale and retail

There has been only one player present in the wholesale press distribution market at the national level in 2021 – the undertaking Tisak plus d.o.o. from Zagreb that in 2021 experienced a slight revenue fall associated with the fall in paid circulation. As the only participant in this market Tisak plus is the biggest retail chain of newsstands and the leading Croatian distributor of newspapers, tobacco products, prepaid vouchers, mobile start packages and other products.

With respect to the press retail revenue of all undertakings included in the survey, they all recorded a fall in the press retail revenue by 10 per cent.

In 2021 Tisak plus was also the leader in the press retail. Its 816 points of sale experienced a slight revenue fall compared with the previous year. The fall in 2021 was 7 per cent in comparison with 2020, whereas the fall in 2020 compared with 2019 was 20 per cent.

The second rival was Hanza Media with a fall in the retail revenue, whereas the third place was taken by the publisher Večernji list that also recorded a fall in the press retail market in 2021.

With respect to its press retail revenue Inovine d.d. was on place four in 2021. As a specialized press and tobacco products retailer it owned 250 outlets, which placed its second after Tisak plus. Compared with the previous year its press retail revenue decreased. Its outlets are dispersed all over the territory of Croatia, however, it owns 3 times less points of sale than Tisak plus.

The press distributor Fibis d.o.o. also had a fall in the press retail revenue compared with 2020. Although it owned a network of specialized outlets their number is negligible in comparison with Tisak plus or Inovine and they are mostly located regionally. In cooperation with the telecom operator A1 it has been spreading its activities in the area of mobile communications services and it has become one of its leading partners and pay-as-you-go voucher distributors.

The above said leads to the conclusion that through subscription most newspaper publishers recorded a fall in the retail revenue. Individually, only Glas Istre Novine d.o.o. rose its revenue from press retail in 2021 compared with 2020.

For the sake of comparison, the market study in 2020 showed that three publishers indicated a rising trend in the press retail business compared with 2019.

It must be noted that publishers apply diverse marketing activities with the objective of attracting potential subscribers and winning them over through annual subscriptions, by offering more favourable prices per copy, gifts –like a TV-set, sports accessories etc.

The newspapers continue to sell on newspaper stands – some 50 % to 60 % are sold on newspaper stands (Tisak plus, Inovine, Fibis) with Tisak still producing the most significant effect.

Finally, it is noted here that on 19 March 2021 Tisak plus and Hrvatska pošta signed a purchase agreement under which HP-Hrvatska pošta acquired control over subscription distribution business of Tisak plus as of 1 April 2021. The purchase agreement also includes the relevant employment contracts of the workers employed in subscription distribution business of Tisak plus d.o.o. and the contracts with publishers and producers that were engaged in subscription distribution business in individual regions.

A detailed version of the Market study in the press publishing market in Croatia in 2021 in the Croatian language is available here