The history of the Armenian print journalism began in India. In 1794, the first journal Ազդարար (Azdarar) was published in Madras. The first Armenian newspaper, Արևելյան ծանուցմունք (The Eastern News) weekly, came out in Astrakhan in 1815. After gaining independence Armenia experienced a boom in print media. Early in the 1990s the number of periodicals amounted to over 500. However, the economic crisis in the country triggered by the border blockade, eruption of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the growing prices for printing services had an impact on the profitability of the print media, most of which had to shut down. The modern print media market in Armenia is very fragmented and complex. By virtue of the 2003 Law on Information, the print media may be published and circulated with no preliminary registration or license. This complicates the determination of the precise number of print media. Today 11 newspapers are published in Armenia on a daily basis; another 32 periodicals are issued at least once a week. The overall daily circulation is of around 35,000 copies. The circulation of each periodical varies from 2,000 to 4,000 copies, of eight pages maximum. Հայկական Ժամանակ (The Armenian Times) newspaper, whose editor-in-chief is the incumbent prime minister’s wife Anna Hakobyan, enjoys the largest circulation, reaching 10,000 copies.
The Armenian print media are in a dire economic state. Newspaper printing is an exceedingly losing business. The average price of an issue is 100 Armenian Drams, about US$0.2, whereas the prime cost is AMD140-150, about US$0.3. Therefore, newspapers do not make an essential influence on the news market and the news content. The price has remained stable since the beginning of the 90s of the last century, while over this period many other prices have grown and a lot has changed in the republic. This indicates the stagnation of the print media market. As a result, investments are not made in the newspaper business and there is absolutely no commercial advertising, basically only announcements. Newspapers come out only in black and white and have difficulties with the content of the news agenda. As a rule, the agenda focuses on political issues and covers social processes very poorly.
The immaturity of the advertising market forces newspapers to rely heavily on sponsors, who are either political parties or benefactors supporting various political forces. This factor adds slight bias and protectionism when shaping the editorial policies, which significantly complicates dissemination of independent information. These circumstances also directly affect the reputation of the periodicals and their popularity with the people. Thus, periodicals are divided into ones supporting the authorities and the opposition press, with no evident golden mean. The following newspapers are the most important ones amongst those who support the Armenian opposition: Չորրորդ իշխանություն (The Fourth Power), Ժողովուրդ (The People), Ժամանակ (The Time), Հրապարակ (The Square), Հայկական Ժամանակ (The Armenian Times), Իրավունք (The Law). State interests are represented by periodicals such as Հայաստանի Հանրապետություն (The Republic of Armenia, Armenian edition), Республика Армения (The Republic of Armenia, Russian edition), funded through the state budget, the liberal newspapers Голос Армении (The Voice of Armenia, in Russian) and Ազգ (The Nation).
As mentioned, the drop in prices of Internet service providers has brought about a massive transition from print to online media. Today, the vast majority of newspapers, mostly metropolitan, have their online version. In Armenia the print media is mostly read by the older generation, aged 50 and over, mainly due to their inability to use gadgets and other technological devices. The young prefer to get information from Internet resources since online media are quick to release urgent and rather objective and unbiased information. A different situation can be seen in the regions: dire socio-economic situation and poor Internet infrastructure do not allow the regional publications to function online. The cost of paint, paper, the rental of premises, payments to employees, as well as ones of technical nature make it hard for regional newspapers to survive. These newspapers are only formally registered in their regions as print media; in fact, however, they are either very rarely published or not published at all. But while city newspapers have a chance to go online, regional ones do not have such opportunity, and they slowly die out. There are 20 regional newspapers published at least once a month, with the overall circulation of about 10,000 copies. It’s often the case that most of them do not even have a mere promo site. The only daily newspaper published in the regions is the Ասպարեզ (Asparez) newspaper, which belongs to the Ժուռնալիստների Ասպարեզ ակումբ (Asparez Journalists Club). Its circulation amounts to 250-300 copies.
The national composition of Armenia is 98.1 percent Armenians, 1.2 percent Yazidis, 0.4 percent Russians and 0.3 percent other ethnicities, including Assyrians, Ukrainians, Georgians, Jews, Kurds and Greeks. Virtually all the national minorities have successfully integrated in the social life of the country; they speak, read and write Armenian and also publish newspapers. The Jewish community’s newspaper David’s Shield comes out monthly in Russian, with circulation from 300 to 500 copies; the Greek community’s newspaper Ilios is published monthly in Armenian, Greek and Russian, circulating 300 copies; the Yazidi community of Armenia publishes two monthly newspapers: Shangal and Ezdikhana, each circulating 500 copies. The Assyrian community publishes the Assyrian News monthly newspaper in Russian and Assyrian, circulating 500 copies. The publication of these newspapers is funded by the government. The main language of the printed matter is Armenian. Since the attainment of independence in the republic, a number of Russian-language newspapers have been published, among them Republic of Armenia, Golos Armenii, Novoye Vremya, Business Express. Russian-language newspapers are mainly distributed in the capital; their main consumers are senior citizens, representatives of the Soviet intelligentsia.