Daily newspapers and periodicals have been the oldest and, until 2003, the most recognizable face of Pakistan’s media landscape. The struggle for freedom of expression and free media in Pakistan through the years has also largely been synonymous with the efforts of print media journalists. Other media forms have also benefited from the fruits of that struggle.
According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), the number of newspapers and periodicals in the country stood at 539 in 2016, down from 1,820 in 2007. There were 308 daily newspapers in 2016, compared to 437 in 2007, 72 weeklies (463 in 2007), 18 fortnightlies (92 in 2007), 137 monthlies (686 in 2007) and three quarterly publications in 2016 (compared to 71 in 2007).
According to data by All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), an organisation of major Pakistani newspapers owners, 378 of its member newspapers were printed daily. Out of the 458 APNS member publications nationwide, 19 were weekly, four fortnightly and 61 monthly publications.
The PBS noted that the average combined daily circulation of Pakistani newspapers fell from 9.9m in 2007 to 6.1m in 2008. This included a circulation of 4.6m for Urdu, 670,743 for English and 640,897 for Sindhi newspapers and periodicals.
Reliable recent figures on print media circulation or market share have been difficult to come by, but circulation of print media organisations generally seems to be in decline.
A range of reasons have been cited for low circulation of newspapers, including low literacy levels and a perception that the print media does not adequately reflect issues of concern for the masses, especially those outside a few main cities.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that newspapers are often shared communally and a single newspaper copy may be read by multiple readers in public spaces.
The state used to own a number of daily newspapers but those were sold or liquidated in the early 1990s. Today the government publishes no daily newspaper. However, it controls the Associated Press of Pakistan, one of the major news agencies.
After the arrival of the Internet, all leading newspapers, including Jang, Nawa-i-Waqt, Dawn, The Nation, The News and Business Recorder, have also started relying on online delivery mechanisms to reach their audience. Almost all major newspapers have also launched TV news channels.
The political leanings among the print media are generally not very apparent, although political slants are visible and government bashing often exceeds what many might consider objective coverage.
The advent of new media has expanded the competition for audiences, and advertisement revenue.
According to Aurora, Pakistan's main advertising magazine, total advertisement revenue across mediums increased by 14 percent, from Pak rupees (PKR) 66.9bn in financial year (FY) 2014-15 to PKR76.2bn in FY 2015-16. The total advertising revenue in FY 2015-16 included PKR38bn for TV, which was 50 percent of the total, PKR18bn (23 percent) for print, PKR8.9bn (12 percent) for out of home (OOH) advertising, PKR4.5bn (6 percent) for digital and PKR2.8bn (4 percent) for radio. A two-year (2015-2016) comparison of percentage share per medium showed 1 percent decline each for print and OOH and 1 percent increase for digital. There was no change for TV and radio.
In FY 2011-12, the top five newspapers in terms of print media advertisement revenue were Jang with PKR3.45bn revenue (31 percent of total print ad revenue), Dawn with PKR1.87 (17 percent), Express News with PKR0.86bn (8 percent), Nawa-i-Waqt with PKR0.76bn (7 percent), and The News with PKR0.731bn (7 percent).