The offer of print media in Venezuela is decreasing worryingly, especially since the appointing of Nicolás Maduro as president in 2013. According to the Instituto de Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), 68 newspapers have closed since that year, and the NGO Espacio Público adds that only in 2018 40 newspapers had to close (in Ocando, 2020). One of the main reasons for this decrease is the lack of newsprint paper, which has forced many newspapers to temporary shutdowns, final shutdowns, decreasing their frequency, sizing down their number of pages or migrations to the digital format.
Since 2013, the supply of newsprint paper depends on the Complejo Editorial Alfredo Maneiro, a state-owned monopolistic organism that imports and distributes newsprint and other supplies for the print media in Venezuela, aggravating the crisis of print media. One of the biggest victims was Tal Cual, founded in 2000, that had to stop their printed edition on 1 November, 2017, existing now only online. The same also happened in December 2018 to El Nacional, one of the biggest and most traditional newspapers. This has also particularly affected regional or local newspapers, as they have less means to survive. Thus ten states –out of 23– do not have local or regional printed media circulating (Espacio Público, 2019) and only national newspapers are available there. Some zones of the country hardly have access to newspapers or the offer is very limited and not plural at all. Additionally, during the Covid-19 pandemic, many have stopped circulating and other have reduced their periodicity or their size due to the limitations derived from the state of exception imposed by the Government and the quarantine; for example, one of the main newspapers, Últimas Noticias, does not circulate anymore during weekends. Despite all that, press is still a rather close medium to small populations, as regional and local papers are present in most regions, whereas digital media, especially due to the poor quality of the telecommunications network, are not yet developed enough in these areas.
A survey conducted in March 2018 by Instituto Delphos showed how the press is used more often as an information source by urban than by rural populations. It also shows that the press is used by 18.5 percent of Venezuelans as their main information source, while according to Hinterlaces (in Pinillos, 2018), this figure is only 8 percent. Another trend is that older men belonging to the lower socio-economic levels are the ones reading newspapers most often.
Censorship imposed by the government has deeply affected print media, making it very difficult for opposition newspapers to continue informing, forcing them to changes in ownership or to soften their critics to the president (Fernández, 2018). Additionally, there seems to exist a clear antagonism between pro-government (often owned by the state, such as Correo del Orinoco, or El Universal, a former anti-government medium that was purchased by a pro-government group, changing their line completely) and anti-government (private and under the constant threat of censorship or disappearance; for example, El Nacional does not have a printed version anymore and works only online) media. Similarly, emblematic regional media with a long tradition had to close their printed versions in the last years –Panorama, in 2019; El Impulso, in 2017; and El Carabobeño, in 2016–, after they lost access to their main raw material –newsprint paper– and to their main source of income –advertising–.
This is also making newspapers, that were until recently the most influential media in the construction of public opinion (Soler & Rivero, 2017), to lose their privileged position, as they are perceived as politicised and less reliable by the population. Three main groups of newspaper publishers can be found in Venezuela: The state or state-controlled companies under the Sistema Bolivariano de Comunicación e Información (Bolivarian Communication and Information System), and the private Bloque De Armas and Últimas Noticias group. The last two also have an important offer of magazines, whereas the first one is the main communication group with presence in television, radio and news agencies. However, many national, regional and local newspapers are not included in these groups.