The Media Registry of the Agency for Business Registries (APR) has as many as 881 print publications registered in it. Data from IPSOS shows that 1.5 million people get their information from the printed press, while 2.5 million buy printed weeklies. This share of the public is much smaller than that which relies on electronic (particularly TV) and online media, while there is also a concerning trend of constant decline in readership which researchers have noted over the previous years.
According to the data of IPSOS, eight daily newspapers and six weeklies account for the greatest share in the readership of the printed media. The most popular are tabloids, which are also the cheapest daily newspapers. Some of them are sold at a barely sustainable price of 30 dinars (around €0.20) per copy. One of the defining features of the printed press in Serbia are the pro-government tabloids which are used to attack the political opposition, as well as all other public figures who criticise the government. These tabloids frequently produce fake news and spread propaganda.
By their nature, those same tabloids are the ones who, on an almost daily basis, break the ethical and professional media codes. Monitoring data from the Press Council shows that from August to December 2018, there were over 3000 breaches of the Journalists’ Code, almost all of them by the tabloids Alo!, Srpski Telegraf, Kurir and Informer.
Other papers do not have a high circulation, but nevertheless influence public opinion. Some of them have a long tradition, such as Politika, which was founded in 1904 and is the oldest paper in the country.
Although the formal owners of most printed media are known, many wonder who really stands behind these formal owners in some cases. The most problematic cases, from an ownership transparency point of view, are the daily newspapers Večernje Novosti and Politika, which were privatised under particularly non-transparent circumstances and in which the state still has an important role. In cases where individual journalists and editors are the formal founders and owners of certain media, it is thought that there are hidden connections to influential businessmen, lawyers or individuals from the criminal world.
An underdeveloped economy and large public sector create a situation in which the state is an important advertiser, particularly in the printed media. This, in turn, creates and effective mechanism for controlling the media, which are in constant danger of losing their state advertising revenues if they criticize the government.
Most printed media also have influential websites. According to data from Gemius, the websites of five daily newspapers – Blic, Kurir, Alo, Informer and Večernje Novosti – are among the ten most visited websites in Serbia.