The legacy newspapers industry in México is composed of long-standing companies that are near to one hundred years old or more, such as (but not only) El Universal (1916), Excélsior (1917), El Informador (1917), El Siglo de Torreón (1922), El Diario de Yucatán (1925) and El Imparcial (1937), as well as newspapers and journalistic holdings that were created in second half of the 20th century such as Organización Editorial Mexicana (1976), El Financiero (1981), La Jornada (1984), Grupo Reforma (1993), and Grupo Milenio (2000). This mix between old and new companies sustains a hybrid and diverse system of national newspapers that blends authoritarian and democratic practices as well as traditional and modern forms of producing newspapers.
At a local level, there are many newspapers. Some of them serve to a whole state, others to regions and cities. However, there is not a public and reliable census that depicts the characteristics of the local and regional newspapers' industries in Mexico. There are two important trends that can be observed in the local level. First, in the last two decades, local newspapers have experienced concentration and centralisation processes, where media firms and holdings acquire local newspapers and then incorporate them into national groups. For example, by the end of the 20th century, Guadalajara, the second largest city in the country, had a strong local newspaper market composed of ten local companies. However, in the second decade of the 20th century, El Informador was the only newspaper owned by a local family, and the rest of the newspapers were owned by national holdings such as OEM, Grupo Reforma, and Milenio. These patterns can be found in other states of the country.
Secondly, local newspapers, and journalism at large, have experienced serious threats from local governments and criminal organizations. According to Artículo 19’s report, “Democracia simulada, nada que aplaudir” (Simulated Democracy, Nothing to Applaud), Mexico has “silence zones” where newspapers and journalists in general cannot publish critical information about public issues and topics related to the war on drugs because their safety is jeopardized. For example, in 2017, in Chihuahua, Miroslava Breach, a journalist that worked for the newspaper La Jornada, was assassinated after publishing information related to drug cartels. However, Miroslava’s case only exemplifies a reality that pervades many states in Mexico, such Veracruz, Tamaulipas, Oaxaca and Guerrero. In these regions, local politicians and drug dealers have the power of controlling what is published in newspapers.
Historically, Mexican newspapers have had two characteristics that define the industry's general business model. On the one hand, newspapers have presented a low readership. According to the Padron Nacional de Medios Impresos (National Registry of Printed Media), national legacy newspapers present a readership that is lower than 200,000 copies per day. For example, Reporte Índigo reports 180,000 copies per day, Ovaciones, 157,000, Reforma 142,000, El Universal 120,000, La Jornada 110,000 and Milenio Diario 104,000. These numbers show that in a country of 120 million inhabitants, legacy newspapers do not have a large readership base. Moreover, it shows that legacy newspapers are read by a social elite composed of politicians, public servants, investors, scholars, students, and so forth. Minority groups have at times organised to produce content that is relevant for them, however, there are no scholarly available sources that document these cases.
On the other hand, this industry has historically relied on a business model based on selling advertisements to the different levels of government. That is, the federal, state, and municipal governments, as well as federal and local institutions of the legislative and judicial branches, buy advertisements to the press. For example, during the first five years of Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidency (2012-2017) his administration spent 38bn pesos in advertisements for newspapers. This economic exchange between governments and newspapers lacks transparency and is discretional and, consequently, has perverted the relations between media and public institutions because it enabled a system where governments have the possibility of controlling the press by allowing or denying the purchase of advertisements to Mexican media. This business model has affected newspapers credibility, which are not trusted information sources. For instance, in a 2016 survey, Parametria documented that 68 percent of Mexicans do not trust newspapers, 23 percent expressed that have moderate trust in the press, and only 6 percent reported to trust these media institutions.
On top of the aforementioned characteristics of the Mexican newspapers, it is worth to mention that this industry has suffered the symptoms of the financial crisis of many other newspapers' industries around the globe, such as a decline in the readership due to a migration of the audiences to other media platforms such as television, cable, and digital news, as well as the impacts of the financial global crises of 1994, 2002, and 2008 that led many private companies to stop advertising in the print versions of newspapers. As a result of this crisis, Mexican newspapers are in constant change, trying to find different ways to survive. All the leading newspapers have made consistent efforts to participate in the online market, and some of them have sought to expand into multimedia and convergent journalistic models, such as Grupo Imagen and Milenio, which are expanding into radio, television and digital media.