In recent years, both reformist and conservative-leaning papers have suffered dips in circulation, and nearly all of the country’s dailies have had to increase their prices to off-set the costs of printing paper.
The number of daily newspapers sold in Iran was at over two million, according to Culture Ministry estimates from 2012, compared to the 800,000 figured for November 2017, that was published by Mehr News Agency.
Hamshahri, Iran’s most popular newspaper, sold over 500,000 copies per day in 2012. This number dropped to 180,000 in mid-August. During the same period, the circulation of Jam-e Jam, affiliated with Iranian state TV, dropped from around half a million per day, to 70 to 80 thousand copies.
Most major newspapers, including Arman, Sharq, Etemad, Javan, Aftab-e Yazd, and Shahrvand publish under or around 7000 copies a day, based on most recent figures.
Newspaper publishers report sales without independent verification, and according to columnist Abbas Abdi, and many exaggerate their popularity to maximize government subsidies given to newspapers on the basis of readership, so the actual circulation of Iran’s dailies may be even lower.
It has been alleged that newspapers loyal to the government’s hardliners receive generous subsidies despite their lack of popularity.
Newspapers are required to maintain a web presence as a condition of receiving government subsidies, so most Iranian newspapers publish versions on the Internet hours before the hard copy version hits newsstands. Some newspapers, like the centrist Sazandegi, have minimized their online presence in order to ensure maximum profitability at the news stands. Others, such as the reformist daily Sharq, have instituted a paywall for their websites.
Many newspapers have been forced to reduce their page count due to the scarcity and high price of printing paper, which has now been added to the list of essential commodities by the government. Paper imports have also been subsidized in an effort to support print titles.
Strict state control over newspaper content has made the dailies less interesting for readers. At the same time, newspaper advertising revenues have dropped dramatically with Iran’s economic crisis worsening after the U.S. exit from the nuclear deal with Iran and renewed sanctions.
State TV and news agencies owned by the government are monopolized by regime hardliners. The last platform for diverse views, outside the web, are Iranian newspapers.