Spain has a lively commercial news market with particularly intense competition in the online arena. The leading newspaper brands, El País and El Mundo, are succeeding with digital subscriptions, but are challenged by free news sites, such as 20 Minutos. Digital-born publications are achieving critical mass despite fragmented news consumption by increasingly distrustful and news-wary users.
One of the most significant changes was that, for the first time, a greater number of Spaniards accessed the internet (84.3%) than watched television (83.3%), according to the Association for Media Research (AIMC). In 2022, the number of minutes per day spent watching TV reached a 30-year low.
The decline of the print media sector continued, and the total number of newspaper readers fell below 6 million. According to AIMC, the sector has lost 60% of its readers over the last decade. Since 2019, the main Spanish news outlets have sought new revenues by charging for news online. According to self-reported figures, El País leads in numbers of digital subscribers (with 300,000, of whom 264,000 are digital-only subscribers), followed by El Mundo (115,000), La Vanguardia (77,000), and the digital-born elDiario.es (61,000). While the number of subscribers has increased (and particularly dramatically so in the case of El País), the main Spanish news brands are still heavily reliant on advertising revenue. Also, in late 2022, monthly audiences for three digital-born brands launched or relaunched in 2021 (El Debate, The Objective ,and El Periódico de España) increased significantly into the millions, to the point of coming close to the well-established websites in our ranking.
Financial pressures have forced most publishing groups to respond, either by strengthening their digital subscription strategies, as with the Vocento group or the Ara newspaper, or by redesigning their digital and print editions such as El Mundo or 20 Minutos, which both upgraded their websites to adopt a more serious look. Vocento group also launched Relevo, a new digital sports newspaper, aimed at younger audiences.
The audiovisual sector underwent significant legal and market changes. The provisions of the new Audiovisual Communication Law (LGCA) extend the scope of those covered by regulation far beyond broadcast TV. For the first time, video streaming and sharing platforms and the most significant influencers such as vloggers are subject to regulation. This will require them to be registered with the government as suppliers of audiovisual services, assume new obligations to protect minors, add age ratings to content, and label advertisements correctly.
The new legislation changes the financing of PSB RTVE. As with the 2009 law, free-to-air commercial operators (mainly, Atresmedia and Mediaset) hand over 3% of their gross revenue, with a total cap now set at 15% of RTVE’s forecast revenue. Now video-on-demand over-the-top OTT services like Netflix, HBO, or Amazon Prime, and video exchange services such as YouTube, Instagram, and Twitch, will also contribute, with 1.5% of their gross revenue in Spain, as traditional pay TV services have done since 2009, with an overall cap of 20% of RTVE’s predicted income.1 Under the previous law, telecommunications operators also used to fund RTVE with a 0.9% tax on their gross revenues, which resulted in €125–140m annually since 2009.2 Now their only contribution to RTVE will be based on their subscription TV and streaming video business.
RTVE has been lagging behind commercial competitors, such as Antena 3 and Telecinco on TV, and COPE, SER, and Onda Cero in news and talk radio, and it has gained a big increase in public funding and new leadership to improve its performance. RTVE has been allocated €530 million in the 2023 state budget, the largest amount since 2011. Elena Sánchez was appointed to replace José Manuel Pérez Tornero as president, with the challenge of improving its audience ratings, and the PSB is recruiting for over a thousand new permanent positions across the company. This expansion has already been reflected in strengthened international coverage, such as reporting on the war in Ukraine and live specials on elections in Brazil, France, and Italy.
The Spanish media market in 2022 saw trials with streaming content during the Qatar World Cup, with mixed results for Twitch experiments. El País and El Confidencial launched video channels on free ad-supported streaming television platforms. The former leader of left-wing populist political party Podemos, and now influential commentator Pablo Iglesias, with support from media mogul Jaume Roures, launched his daily programme La Base on Público’s site and YouTube channel, where he criticised journalists, and announced his planned online television channel, Canal Red.
Alfonso Vara-Miguel, Samuel Negredo, Elsa Moreno, Jürg Kaufmann, and Avelino Amoedo
University of Navarra
The leading online site 20 Minutos, which was acquired by former regional group Henneo in 2015, has a growing readership that is well balanced in all socio-demographic criteria (gender, age, income, and education). It has also kept daily print editions in the four largest cities.
Pay for online news
Listen to podcast in the last month
Trust in news overall
Trust in news I use
Mixed results: although the loss of trust in news in general has halted (at 33%) for the first time since 2017, distrust has reached its highest figure (40%) in the nine years covered by our survey, especially high among under-45s. At the same time, however, trust in many of the main news brands has increased significantly, by around 4–5pp, year-on-year.