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Tablodization and the Media, Vol. 5 - 1998, No. 3

Tabloid Newspapers in Post-communist Hungary

, pages: 65-77

An important and particular feature of post-communist transformation in the media in East Central Europe was the rise of a section of the press devoted to sensation and scandals. This development was the result of different processes which occurred with the system change. The most important changes were the end of political control of the press; the liberalisation and marketisation of press markets; the commercialisation of the media and changing media consumption patterns. The development of sensational press was influenced by changing market conditions in post-communist media, particularly the saturation and shrinking of the press market, the expanding but increasingly competitive advertising sector and the limited potential for considerable financial gains in the national dailies market. Foreign investment also played an important role in the rise of popular press with foreign owners introducing Western type tabloids or acquiring stakes in local popular papers. Changes in newspaper demand, such as in reading habits and decreasing buying power of the population were influential factors as well. Post-communist cultural changes, with emphasis on internationalisation and promotion of consumer society, also affected what people wanted to read. The development of popular papers led to the segmentation of the Hungarian press market, where there were three groups: tabloids, qualities and specialised titles. Despite the increase in circulation and market share tabloids do not dominate the Hungarian market the way they prevail in the press markets of the Western world. Quality papers retain higher circulation figures overall and they also perform better in the advertising market. This is partly due to the fact that many press titles of the communist era managed to transform and rejuvenate themselves into market-type quality papers benefiting that they were already familiar to readers. This article argues that although the segmentation of post-communist press market in Hungary into quality and popular types does bear similarities with developments in Western Europe, it has special characteristics due to recent history, a different press culture and different media consumption patterns.

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