According to estimates by the Asociación de Editores de Diarios Españoles (Association of Spanish Newspaper Publishers - AEDE, 2016), in 2015, 107 newspapers were published in Spain, with a total circulation of around 2.1m copies a day. Ten years earlier, in 2006, the Spanish press sold 4m copies a day, according to the data audited by the Oficina de Justificación de la Difusión (Circulation Audit Bureau - OJD). This means that, in just a decade, Spanish newspapers reduced their circulation by almost half.

On the other hand, most of the circulation is concentrated in a few titles. In 2015, 56 percent of Spanish newspapers maintained an average circulation of less than 10,000 copies (AEDE, 2016). The main newspapers are, of course, the national ones, but also a few regional newspapers, solidly based in their respective territories. All the newspapers are published in tabloid format but, unlike other European countries, Spain has no sensationalist newspapers as such.

In the general information press, the newspaper of greatest circulation is El País. Founded in Madrid on 4 May 1976, just six months after the death of the dictator Franco, it is considered the most emblematic and influential medium of the last four decades of Spanish democracy. Of progressive ideology, its editorial approach has traditionally been close to social democracy, embodied in Spain by the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party - PSOE). Owned by PRISA, one of the country’s main communication groups, since its foundation, it has remained the most widely read general information newspaper. It has also become the Spanish medium of reference for the international press. That sustained leadership has not, however, prevented the newspaper from suffering a severe fall in its circulation in recent years. In contrast to the more than 435,000 copies that, according to the OJD, it sold daily at the end of the 20th century (specifically, in 1999), at the end of 2016, El País reached an average daily circulation of just over 185,000 copies. This decline, particularly pronounced since the economic crisis unleashed in 2008, has significantly damaged the newspaper’s accounts, leading to changes in its shareholdings. Within the editorial staff, the fall has resulted in hundreds of journalists being dismissed -the number of workers in the newspaper dropped from 899 in 2008 to 334 in 2015 (PR Noticias, 2017)-, several changes of director and a general reorientation of the newspaper’s editorial strategy, which has changed from being focused on the print business to giving priority to digital platforms, in an attempt to become the medium of reference in Spanish on a global scale.

There are another three national general information newspapers based in Madrid: El Mundo (founded in 1989 and owned by the Unidad Editorial group, sold just over 100,000 copies in November 2016), ABC (founded in 1903, Vocento, 84,000 copies, 11/2016) and La Razón (founded in 1998, Grupo Planeta, 65,000 copies, 11/2016). These three newspapers are located, with different intensities, in a liberal-conservative ideological spectrum and have a constitutionalist editorial line.

Like El País, the rest of the Spanish press has also suffered a pronounced fall in circulation and has drastically reduced its workforce. According to an analysis by PR Noticias (2017) based on data from the White Paper of the Daily Press 2016, Spanish newspapers as a whole cut their workforce by 43 percent in the seven years after the crisis: from 10,454 employees in 2008, to 5,942 in 2015 (that is, 4,511 jobs were destroyed).

In addition to these titles published in the country’s capital, other major Spanish general information newspapers are La Vanguardia (Barcelona, 1888, Grupo Godó, 104,000 copies, 11/2016), El Periódico de Catalunya (Barcelona, 1978, Grupo Zeta, 77.000 copies, 11/2016), La Voz de Galicia (La Coruña, 1882, Corporación Voz de Galicia, 73,000 copies, 12/2015), El Correo (Bilbao, 1910, Vocento, 73,000 copies, 12/2015), El Diario Vasco (San Sebastián, 1934; Vocento; 53.000 copies, 12/2015), La Nueva España (Oviedo, 1936; Editorial Prensa Ibérica; 43.000 copies, 12/2015) and Heraldo de Aragón (Saragossa, 1895, Grupo Heraldo, 36,000 copies, 12/2015), among others. Each of these newspapers is leader in its respective territory.

The sports press is very popular in Spain. It has four main representatives: Marca (founded in 1938; Unidad Editorial), As (1967; PRISA), Mundo Deportivo (1906; Grupo Godó) and Sport (1979; Grupo Zeta). The first two are published in Madrid and the other two in Barcelona, and give priority attention to the football teams of their respective capitals. In fact, an overwhelming majority of their covers are devoted to Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. These four newspapers have sales below those of the main national daily newspapers but, in contrast, their audience is very high. According to the Estudio General de Medios (General Media Survey - EGM) of March 2016, Marca was the top printed medium in Spain, with 2.3 million readers a day. The other three sports newspapers also held outstanding positions in that same ranking: As, fourth with 1.2 million; Mundo Deportivo, seventh with 508,000; and Sport, tenth with 453,000. In addition to these four newspapers, some other newspapers and sports magazines of lower circulation are published in several capitals of the country.

Spain also has press specialised in economic information. After the closure of La Gaceta de los Negocios in 2013, Spain now has three printed economic journals, all in Madrid: Expansión (1986; Unidad Editorial), Cinco Días (1978; PRISA) and El Economista (2006; EcoPrensa). Within the specialised press, in the past Spain also had the printed edition of a medical journal, Diario Médico, but today it is only published in digital format.

As for the free press, in the middle of the first decade of 2000, Spain became the world leader in the reading of free newspapers. Their aggregate circulation exceeded that of all paid newspapers together: in 2006, it reached 5m copies a day (Bakker, 2007). However, once again the economic crisis decimated this sector of the press, causing virtually all titles to disappear (Metro, Qué!, ADN...). In 2016, there was only one major free newspaper published on paper: 20 Minutos, with editions in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and some cities in Andalusia. This newspaper, owned by the Norwegian group Schibsted during the years of greatest prosperity, was sold to Grupo Heraldo in the summer of 2015.

The market for printed magazines has also been severely affected by the crisis. If, according to the Estudio General de Medios (EGM), in 2000 their aggregate audience amounted to 53.6 percent of Spaniards, in March 2016 that figure had dropped to 37.3 percent. According to the same survey, the three largest weekly magazines were Pronto (3.1 million readers), Hola! (2.1 million) and Lecturas (1.3 million), all women’s magazines. As for the monthly magazines, the main ones were Muy Interesante (1.8 million), National Geographic España (1.7 million) and Saber Vivir (1.1 million), devoted to the dissemination of knowledge.

Dozens of magazines have disappeared since the beginning of this century and virtually all of them have seen their sales and advertising revenues drop significantly. The weekly supplements of newspapers have also fallen in number and circulation.