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The disastrous state of information in Italy. Newspapers no longer sell to disillusioned readers

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The printed press continues to lose readers: ADS data from May 2023 confirms the negative trend that has been affecting Italian newspapers for years. The actual copies sold and paid for by individual readers, both at newsstands and through digital subscriptions, have decreased by 10% compared to the same month of the previous year, amounting to just over one million copies. This figure prompts reflection on the future of journalism and its ability to inform and shape public opinion. We thank Startmag and Il Post for providing the data.

These numbers are those of the copies actually sold and not given away by the publishers. In Italy many copies are given away to keep the theoretical circulation of newspapers high

The list of the number of copies sold is truly concerning, especially for those who work as mainstream journalists:

  • Corriere della Sera: 175,084 copies (-4%)
  • La Repubblica: 99,302 copies (-10%)
  • La Stampa: 72,623 copies (-11%)
  • Il Sole 24 Ore: 57,194 copies (-6%)
  • Il Resto del Carlino: 56,572 copies (-11%)
  • Il Messaggero: 48,838 copies (-7%)
  • Il Fatto: 40,016 copies (-11%)
  • La Nazione: 36,782 copies (-10%)
  • Il Gazzettino: 34,986 copies (-6%)
  • Dolomiten: 28,406 copies (-6%)
  • Il Giornale: 27,856 copies (-10%)
  • Il Messaggero Veneto: 26,686 copies (-7%)
  • La Verità: 24,578 copies (-18%)

Other national newspapers:

  • Libero: 21,536 copies (+15%)
  • Avvenire: 15,561 copies (-9%)
  • Il Manifesto: 12,594 copies (-1%)
  • ItaliaOggi: 9,229 copies (-3%) (Note: Il Foglio and Domani are not certified by ADS).

La Repubblica falls below 100,000 copies, showcasing how GEDI’s influence has now dwindled to a minimum. Among these, Il Fatto is the one that has undergone the greatest contraction (-11%), followed by Il Giornale (-10%), which has reached 48,976 copies. La Verità, the newspaper directed by Maurizio Belpietro, has lost 18% of its sales in a year, decreasing to 38,839 copies. The reason could be the migration of some readers to Libero, the only newspaper that experienced growth in 2022 (+15%), going from 29,496 to 33,920 copies. Libero conducted a highly critical campaign against novax and the restrictive measures adopted by the government to counter the pandemic, and consequently lost a significant portion of its readers during that period in favor of La Verità, which held more liberal positions. However, this effect is now waning, and Belpietro’s newspaper should analyze the desires of its potential audience.

The actual number of online subscriptions is even more disheartening. If we consider subscriptions with non-gifted copies, that is, with a price equal to at least 30% of the list price, we have:

  • Corriere della Sera: 43,593
  • La Repubblica: 26,112
  • Il Sole 24 Ore: 23,410
  • Il Fatto: 19,393
  • La Stampa: 8,984
  • Il Gazzettino: 6,295
  • Il Manifesto: 6,120

What was supposed to be a boon for newspapers, digital subscriptions, has actually proven to be a minimal source of income, insufficient to sustain the economic accounts of newspapers: 1,622 digital subscriptions paid at least 30% for Avvenire, 1,413 for Il Giornale, 1,328 for La Verità, 1,371 for Libero, 2,533 for La Gazzetta dello Sport. The three Monrif newspapers (Giorno, Il Resto del Carlino, La Nazione) declare a total of 2,043.

The sales numbers of Italian newspapers are ridiculous, compared even to local American newspapers. For example, “The Plain Dealer”, the local newspaper of an average city like Cleveland (Ohio), prints 90,000 copies a day.

Among local newspapers, the best-sellers are La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno (41,519), Il Corriere del Veneto (40,996), and Il Corriere Fiorentino (40,205). However, these have also experienced a decrease in their sales, just like all other regional titles. Among the hardest hit are Il Tirreno (-17%), La Gazzetta di Parma (-13%), and Il Centro di Pescara (-14%).

A System that Can’t Endure

The Italian information system, therefore, has significant economic problems. Clearly, the product they are producing doesn’t excite readers, who are either leaving or, in any case, don’t want to pay for something they apparently value little. Furthermore, the reduction in available income doesn’t provide families with the resources to pay for information. The transition to digital, which succeeded for US newspapers, has failed here in Italy, or perhaps the audience base wasn’t sufficient.

This makes the publishing industry poor on one hand, and subservient to political power, which controls the portfolio of editorial contributions, on the other. And, frankly, this is very clearly seen in the product.

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