In January 2023 Ziarul de Gardă has 15,660 subscribers and a circulation of over 16,000 copies (several hundred copies go on sale at stands and post offices). What do these numbers mean? Is it a lot or is it a little? A comparative analysis of subscription data from Moldova and other countries shows that it is an excellent figure.
The most subscribed newspaper in France, Le Monde, had a circulation of 400,000 copies last year for a population of 68 million people. The most subscribed newspaper in Germany, Bild, had a circulation of 1.1 million copies for a population of 83 million inhabitants. In Romania, the periodicals with the largest circulations are Click (36,000 copies), Libertatea (21,000 copies) and Gazeta Sporturilor (13,000 copies).
The circulations of European newspapers are astronomical, compared to those in Moldova. However, the circulation figures become clear, when we compare them to the number of people that subscribe to or buy newspapers. In France, one in 170 people receives Le Monde, in Germany one in 75 people is subscribed to Bild. In Romania, one in 530 people reads Click, one in 909 – Libertatea and one in 1470 reads Gazeta Sporturilor. In Moldova, an issue of ZdG reaches one in 160 people. So, if ZdG were in France, it would be in 2nd place, if it were in Germany – in 5th place, and in Romania – it would be in 1st place. And in many countries, we would be the no. 1 investigative newspaper. But we are in Moldova and we are happy to do everything we can here.
None of the newspapers with the largest circulations in the world are dedicated to journalistic investigations: they are general newspapers, tabloids, etc. There are several investigative newspapers in the world, but none of them are among the top (from the data we were able to analyze). Why? Investigative journalism is considered niche, for a specific audience: it is an important genre, but difficult, serious, and hard to consume.
Can you imagine what the people of Moldova are like, if they, more than the Germans, the French, or anyone in the world, decided to subscribe to a newspaper with investigative reporting? Yes, for every 160 people in Moldova, you will meet a subscriber of an investigative newspaper, of Ziarul de Gardă.
Here we would like to draw attention to a stereotype that should be eliminated: people from Moldova are not stupid, lazy, uneducated, etc. Moldovans subscribe more than the citizens of any other country to a newspaper with hard-to-do journalism, and this means that they consciously choose to get informed about corruption, human rights, transparency, justice, and democracy. This means that Moldovan people read what matters.
This choice is becoming clearer to us. Year after year, the number of ZdG subscribers increases. In the last 5 years, the number of ZdG subscribers has increased by over 100%. And in January 2023 we have the largest number of subscribers in the 18-year history of ZdG.
When we take the results of the subscription campaign, as well as the evolution of ZdG, we find that Ziarul de Gardă remains the most subscribed newspaper in Moldova, even in the year when we are the poorest, we have multiple economic, financial, and security crises, and we have a population in constant decline.
We are happy to list (repeatedly) another 5 interesting records.
– the number of ZdG subscribers has doubled in the last 5 years;
– in January 2023, ZdG has 12% more subscriptions than in January 2022;
– ZdG is the only investigative newspaper to have the largest number of subscribers in a country (until proven otherwise);
– ZdG remains the largest journalistic investigative group in Moldova;
– ZdG is the newspaper with the largest circulation in Moldova that is run by journalists, not by parties, politicians, or oligarchs;
We note that a copy of a newspaper does not reach and does not stop at one person. The newspaper reaches households with several family members, as well as libraries, schools, town halls, and prisons. Even village bars are subscribed to ZdG. A newspaper copy reaches 4-8-10 people, depending on the institution.
We know, global and national trends regarding information consumers show that the number of newspaper readers is small because the absolute majority watch TV programs and get information from the Internet. ZdG is a multi-platform investigative group, we have a printed newspaper, a website in 3 languages, pages on multiple social networks, and investigative video materials broadcasted on national and regional stations. According to Gemius Moldova (the official audit of internet traffic), ZdG is in the Top 10 most accessed web pages, the Top 3 among independent mass media web pages with local content, and the Top 1 among investigative groups.
Rich in subscribers and audience, but what about money?
All over the world, investigative journalism is considered the most difficult, the most expensive, the most important, but not the best paid, because it does not generate money, but creates more problems and sometimes losses for newsrooms. That’s why investigative journalism is considered a fragile genre around the world, and investigative teams are in decline. Thus, it is globally recognized that investigative journalism is supported by foundations, communities, and special projects. Because investigative journalism may not bring financial profit, but it brings great profit to democracy.
ZdG is like other investigative groups around the world – a strong establishment by professional standards, but in financial difficulty. To do investigative journalism in one of the poorest countries in Europe is to inform a society impoverished by corruption, with nothing to reward you. Doing investigative journalism in 2023 means working in conditions of dramatic price increases due to the Russian war in Ukraine: the price of newsprint has increased by 35%, newspaper distribution has become more expensive by 40%, electricity, gas, and fuel have increased in price several times, and the salary of a reporter has decreased, as well as the salary value of subscribers.
Despite this, the ZdG community constantly supported us during the pandemic years and the first year of the war. In the past year, our Patreon community has grown from 144 to 217 monthly supporters.
On July 31, 2022, we launched a community support project – zdg.one. In just 5 months of last year, 25 people supported us with one-time donations for subscriptions, investigations, etc.
With all the support from our subscribers, and patrons, but also with the income from advertising, we barely cover 25% of the needs of the newsroom. Even with donations increased, because of the war, our spending increased too. Grants from foreign donors help us a lot. ZdG applies to grant competitions and we were happy in 2022 to obtain short or medium-term grants from the US Embassy, NED, the Canadian Embassy, Internews, USAID, FPU, EMS, DRRM, DPI, ZINC, CoE, EU, AI. But the grants are not announced and given when the newsrooms want, but when the donors have the possibilities.
The year 2023 greeted us with a lot of work, many requests from the citizens, many cases of corruption to follow in the courts, and many obscure situations to unravel, but with a hole in the budget. Now, with the help of grants from the US Embassy, the Canadian Embassy, FPU, Internews Europe, NED, USAID, with subscription money and small donations – we cover 85% of the expenses, but from March some grants end and we are in need of new sources. We will work, as in all 18 years, on 2 fronts: the reporters will do investigations, reports, interviews, and news, and the small management team will look for transparent money to support the reporters and for Moldova to have what to read. Because we can’t stop here, we can only go on.
Dear community, the existence, and growth of ZdG are a result of your support. We thank you and we stay on Guard.