The Year of Tabloids

Balgaria Dnes and Vseki Den Seven Months On: A Brief Retrospective

12 март 2012, Автор: Bogdana Dencheva
Публикувана в 2011 Media Monitoring Report

At the height of the summer season of 2011, two new newspapers appeared on the Bulgarian media market. Even before they rolled off the press, Balgaria Dnes (Bulgaria Today) and Vseki Den (Every Day) had already declared war on each other: a war of territories and of interests.

Seven months later, it is more than obvious that their simultaneous launch was no coincidence. Balgaria Dnes and Vseki Den were created, and exist to this day, to contradict each other, to inconvenience each other, to do anything but carry responsibility for the morality they foster in consumers’ minds and for the need for readers to become civic-minded.

The absurdly low ‘market’ price of BGN 0.40, which practically gave many other print media no chance to defend their real cost as equivalent to quality, led to a sea change in circulation numbers to the advantage of tabloids. As well as to expansion of the meaning of the term ‘media monopoly’ to the point of complete and seemingly irreversible normalization of the phenomenon itself.

Bulgаria Today

‘Quick, brief, clear’, ‘Bulgaria’s first daily tabloid’, ‘a newspaper designed to be read, not to cleanse guilty political consciences’: these were some of the ambitions of the publishers from Media Group Bulgaria Holding according to the official press release published on the Newspaper Group Bulgaria website to announce the launch of Balgaria Dnes. Thirty-two pages daily, fifty-six on Saturdays, and a promised free supplement offering the most complete TV guide on Fridays, a key day for the Bulgarian print media market.

The allusion to the name of American giant USA Today was not coincidental, and neither was the date of the pilot issue of Balgaria Dnes, 4 July (US Independence Day). The new newspaper is published by the publishers of Trud and 24 Chasa and co-owned by businessmen Lyubomir Pavlov and Ognyan Donev. Nedyalko Nedyalkov, the publisher of Retro (and one of the founders of Weekend), is also involved in the project. The editor-in-chief is Nikolay Penchev, the former editor-in-chief of the 168 Chasa weekly. The photographers, known as Bulgaria’s best paparazzi and acknowledged as such even by the rival New Media Group, the present publisher of Weekend and Vseki Den, also came from 168 Chasa.

Weekend Every Day

Vseki Den succeeded in making the strategically best move: it appeared on the market on the same day as Balgaria Dnes, eclipsing the spectacular launch of its rival and debunking the myth that independent journalism (the proclaimed aim of the Balgaria Dnes staff) has no analogy, considering that there is obvious direct competition. Vseki Den is the product of New Media Group, unofficially connected to Irena Krasteva’s New Bulgarian Media Group, and took its first lessons in raising circulation numbers from the bigger member of the family, Telegraf.

Unlike Balgaria Dnes, the masthead of Vseki Den does not list the editor-in-chief but an editorial board made up of Boris Angelov, Dimitar Zlatkov, Martin Radoslavov, Miroslav Borshosh and Hristina Emilova. By way of an explanation, the owners of New Media Group told the Dnevnik daily that Vseki Den would be in ‘synergy with the website of the same name, but the two media outlets will be different and the online media outlet will preserve its present form’. In fact, Vsekiden.com is one of the successful Bulgarian news and information websites, but in the last three years it has failed to keep up with its rivals in the sector. The website is continuing to publish a banner featuring the front page of the day’s Vseki Den.

The First Elections

Three months after their launch, the two new Bulgarian dailies stopped coming out on Sundays but kept their high circulation numbers and typical brazenness. Their size on Saturdays reached ninety-six pages, and their price BGN 1.

Against this background, during the election campaign Balgaria Dnes and Vseki Den informed the public in plain language, defining themselves as messengers of the truth, but the daily extremely negative discourse posed the risk of a shift of focus as to what was truly important in covering the campaign. The two newspapers demonstrated the clearest and most distinct interest in the elections in the week before the two rounds. Coverage of the presidential campaign took precedence over their interest in the local government election.

Unlike the majority of the Bulgarian media, Balgaria Dnes and Vseki Den did not focus on the main presidential contenders, Rosen Plevneliev and Ivaylo Kalfin. They focused instead on independent candidate Meglena Kuneva and RZS leader Yane Yanev. Balgaria Dnes chose to demonstrate that it does not support the government and its policy by providing a platform (including boxed ads) to opposition parties such as the RZS.

For its part, Vseki Den targeted Meglena Kuneva. It loudly accused Kuneva of censorship after she filed a complaint to the Central Electoral Commission against the newspaper about the publication of an article qualified as offensive to her family. Two months after the elections, the tabloid continued to refer to Kuneva as ‘opposition chief’ and ‘the failed candidate for president’.

In Conclusion

Before, during and after the elections, Balgaria Dnes and Vseki Den actively defended their ‘yellow’ principle: the right to look for the weaknesses in the campaign by means of the tabloid format. The political messages were invariably complemented by forecasts of fortune-tellers who offered their own versions about the outcome of the elections. In the course of the campaign, the two newspapers engaged in a fierce debate over the issues of media monopoly in Bulgaria and the qualities of their own journalists/commentators.

Balgaria Dnes and Vseki Den launched a personal crusade to expose every form of political incorrectness and to tell ‘the truth and nothing but the truth’. But despite their promises, they fell into their own trap because they failed to convince us, as they claimed, that they would produce quality journalism even if in tabloid format.

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