The print market is rather large, but not wealthy. According to data provided by the State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine, in 2019 there are 3,085 papers and periodical outlets with a combined circulation of 660,462,700 per six months (however, this is official data; real circulation may be somewhat lower). Of these papers, 1,120 are issued in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, while 1,965 are regional. The print media market reflects the Ukrainian multilingualism: 1,370 outlets are issued in the Ukrainian language, 612 are in Russian, 459 are in both languages. There are also outlets in national minority languages: four in Hungarian, two in Polish, two in Romanian, and one in Gagauzian. There are also 44 outlets in English.
As the income from selling newspapers and journals is very low, advertising revenues are considered to be the indicators of media efficiency in Ukraine. That being said, the share of print media in the advertising market hardly reaches 10 percent, as research by the Ukrainian Institute for the Future shows. However, there was stable growth in the second half of 2017, and in the first nine months of 2018, a 5-7 percent increase in advertising revenues was seen. This can be explained with the general economic trend, as Ukraine was slowly recovering from the drastic recession caused by the crisis in Crimea and the secession of industry-rich parts of Eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Print media were also dragging behind all other media in terms of audience. According to the study by InMind for Internews Network, only 21 percent of Ukrainians read print media at least once per month - this figure had declined by 10 percent since 2016. Only 16 percent of Ukrainians used print media as their weekly source of news.
The most popular daily newspaper Segodnya (Today) had a circulation of 230,000 and was oriented to the general audience in cities and villages alike. It stopped its output at the end of 2019. Novoe Vremia (New Time), the most popular weekly journal, had a circulation of only 19,000 and aimed at highly-educated people interested in politics and economy. It is worth noting that both these outlets were produced in Russian only (the law allows printed media to be published in Russian until May 2021, after which the norm on mandatory duplication of all content in Ukrainian enters into force).
InMind research shows that print media are the least trusted in Ukraine. Only 35 percent of Ukrainians trust regional print outlets, while 33 percent trust the national newspapers. However, these figures have increased if compared to 2017 results which were 31 percent and 28 percent respectively. While explaining why they don’t trust print media, readers complain about the outdated information papers provide in comparison to TV and online, the lack of facts, and a one-sided view on events.
A slightly higher level of trust in local media is not accidental. There is a tradition for Ukrainians who live in regions to support local newspapers. Regional outlets mostly focus on local news and events, as they often lack resources to cover national and international news properly. In this case, local media are mostly reprinting the messages of information agencies.
The market of print media is dominated by private capital. The total share of state- and community-owned media outlets used to reach up to 22 percent of the total number of Ukrainian periodicals. However, in late November 2015, Ukraine’s parliament has changed the situation by adopting a law on reforms of state- and municipal-owned printed media. The law obliged all such media to be privatized – voluntarily during the 2016 and obligatorily in 2017-2018. The process is currently underway.
A rare example of independent, popular (but loss-making in terms of money) newspaper is Dzerkalo Tyzhnya (The Mirror of the Week) edited by Yulia Mostova, a Ukrainian journalist. However, the audience of this paper is quite a niche: high-educated Ukrainian- and Russian-speaking readers of 40+ years of age.
The lack of transparency in the media ownership structure favors the spread of disinformation. For example, media outlets which belong to Ukrainian politicians who have fled to Russia are used, inter alia, for carrying out disinformation and propaganda campaigns (the latest case concerns the so-called “autocephaly” of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church) aimed at the general public, as research by Internews Ukraine and UkraineWorld shows. A vivid example is Vesti (News) newspaper, the second most popular newspaper in Ukraine as of 2019 (published in Russian). It is allegedly owned by Oleksandr Klymenko, the ex-minister of income and charges of Ukraine, and an ally of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych. The paper is one of the most Eurosceptic and NATO-critical media outlets in Ukraine, with its most EU- or NATO-related publications having negative and sarcastic tones.
Journalists are also subjected to increasing pressures, often depending on the topics they choose to cover. In 2016, the Ukrainian activist website Mirotvorets published the names and personal info of approximately 5,000 Ukrainian and foreign media professionals who had received accreditation from self-proclaimed authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk to report on the conflict, which led to direct threats to several of those journalists and was updated even after an official inquiry was opened. Journalists and activists covering anti-corruption topics have often faced harassment and intimidation through physical violence and surveillance of their communications. In 2018, anti-corruption journalists Nataliya Sedletska and Krystyna Berdynskykh’s phones were tracked for almost one year, allegedly as part of an ongoing investigation against the Head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, Artem Sytnik.
Ukrainian press is not available in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as in Crimea, where only Russian and local newspapers circulate. According to regular media monitorings by Donetskaya Pravda (Donetsk Truth) and Detector Media, these outlets often promote hate speech against Ukrainians. A recent study by Texty.org.ua called We’ve got bad news! revealed that many of the “junky media” active in spreading manipulative news, emotionally exaggerated information, etc, are based in non-government controlled territories.