Newspapers and news magazines enjoy freedom in Georgia, but their readership is low. Only 1 percent of Georgians said in the polls (NDI, 2017) that newspapers and news magazines were their primary source of political and public affairs content, and only 6 percent used the print press as the secondary source. However, the print press plays a role in agenda setting through targeting the elite readership and feeding stories to the national and local broadcasters.
While 317 newspapers are registered with the National Statistics Office of Georgia (2016), more than one third of these newspapers is either published irregularly (56) or one (34) or four to six times a year (39). These are industry publications, political and commercial marketing tools. Another third of newspapers appears once a month (78) or two to three times month (39). As for regular newspapers, most are weeklies (51), followed by twice or thrice-weekly editions (19) and dailies (14).
Tbilisi-based daily Resonance and weekly Kviris Palitra offer diverse public affairs content. These newspapers have loyal readership, and are generally oriented towards the centre of the political spectrum. Tabloid press Alia, Versia, PrimeTime, Chronika +, Kviris Kronika, Akhali Taoba have readership but less stringent professional standards. Asaval-Dasavali, Sakartvelo da Msoplio, and Sakartvelos Respublica have carried hate speech and xenophobic content traceable to Russian propagandist sources, according to the Media Development Foundation (MDF). Most Tbilisi dailies are distributed in the regions.
Georgia has a vibrant scene of small independent regional publications. These newspapers have a high degree of independence, and contribute strongly to the national news gathering and investigative practice. The leaders are Samkhretis Karibche, Kakhetis Khma, Spektri, Guria News, Chemi Imereti, Batumelebi. Most of these newspapers operate online but some also produce print copies, if irregularly. Unlike these newspapers, which originated in the domain of print press, Qartli.ge, Mtisambebi.ge, Livepress.ge and Netgazeti.ge are regional publications, which started online (see Digital Media).
There are 34 newspapers, mostly regional monthly publications, which are funded by central and municipal budgets to carry public information, including in the languages of ethnic minorities. Central newspaper Vrastan (in Armenian) and Gurjistan (in Azerbaijani) are both funded by the state budget. Armenian-language content in local newspapers Nor Akunk and Arshaluis and Azerbaijani-language content in newspapers Bolnisi, Tiraletis Expresi and Didgorelebi are subsidized by municipal authorities. Independent Samkhretis Karibche prints an Armenian-language edition irregularly with international donor funds. Russian-language newspapers circulating in Tbilisi are Vecherni Tbilisi, Tbilisskaya Nedelya, Tbilisskaya Nedelya, Argumenti i Facti, Komsomolskaya Pravda v Gruzii. The Messenger Online, Georgia Today, the Georgian Times (available in English and Georgian), Georgian Journal are English-language newspapers catering to the international community. The Messenger Online is now only available on the net.
Most-read niche editions are devoted to sports and business. Bankebi da Pinansebi, Financial, Georgia Today Business, and Sitkva da Sakme belong to the latter type. Sports newspapers Lelo, Sarbieli, Msoplio Sporti, Sport Info have loyal readership and regular circulation. Newspapers devoted to literature, like Literaturuli Gazeti and Literaturuli Sakartvelo are also popular with audiences.
Magazine publishing is on the rise. Sarke, Tbiliselebi, Gza offer a mix of gossip about entertainment and politics on low-quality paper and at a small price. Licensed brand editions, such as OK Georgia, Forbes Georgia, Hello Georgia, National Geographic Georgia, Auto Build Georgia, are also popular among audiences and do well business-wise. City, Amarta, Beaumonde, Shin, are popular homegrown glossies. Among serious magazines, Indigo and Liberali meet the demand for analytical content. After years of appearing in print, Liberali stopped printing and appears only as an online edition.
Precise and detailed data on newspaper circulation is not available as Georgia lacks data collection and circulation verification mechanisms. According to the latest data available from the Georgian Department of Statistics (GeoStat), a combined circulation of all registered (317) newspapers, including trade and political publications and commercial papers was 111,217 copies in 2016, while the total newspaper print was 60.4m copies. The total magazine print in 2016 was 27.4m copies. Compared to 2005, newspapers circulate fewer copies, with total circulation down by 72 percent (from 400,000 in 2005). However, the number of newspapers is up from 88 in 2005 to 317 in 2016, with the growth mostly in the categories of bi-annual, annual and irregular press. Total newspaper print volume has also grown by 237 percent (from 17.9m in 2005 to 60.4m in 2016). Said another way, there is greater variety of print editions, which circulate at lower levels.
The data shows that in line with global trends, the Georgian daily and weekly news press has shrunk in size, but printed information is still relevant in a country with partial Internet penetration and readers, mostly from older generations, lacking Internet skills. The increased transparency in business practices of Georgia is also a factor.
The total magazine print has also grown by 2.427 percent from 1.1m in 2005 to 27.4m in 2016, according to the GeoStat.
At the same time, newspapers and news magazines lost their relevance as sources of serious, public affairs content: From 2011 to 2017, the number of readers who said newspapers and news magazines were their first source of news about politics and public affairs fell by 50 percent and the number of readers who used newspapers and newsmagazines as their secondary sources dropped 75 percent from 24 percent in 2011 to 6 percent in 2017, according to NDI’s 2017 study.
The share of the advertising market for the print industry remains relatively stable at a low 4 percent, according to Transparency International Georgia (2016). The business models adopted by newspapers and magazines vary. While the majority of newspapers relies on copy sales, some local newspapers that still print copies, distribute free of charge to maintain the audience. A handful of regional newspapers received continued financial support from international donors. Magazines rely on advertising and sponsorships. News magazines, such as Indigo, rely primarily on subscription and advertising incomes. Entertainment, sports and glossies also use the combination of copy sales and advertising income.