Right-wing Hungarian newspaper’s readership falls dramatically

The Magyar Nemzet daily newspaper was long the jewel in the crown of the pro-Orbán media empire, but ever since the paper’s owner, Lajos Simicska, found himself in a singularly nasty and foulmouthed dispute with the prime minister (who was his college roommate decades ago and long-time friend), government officials and ministers have been boycotting the media magnate, and there are plans to create a new, anti-Simicska media group. The dispute likely explains at least in part why the paper’s readership is falling so rapidly. Never has the Magyar Nemzet seen such a decline in readers as it did in the first quarter of the year, when it shed over 6% of its readership within just three months, according to the website Menedzsment Fórum (MFOR). The right-wing paper now sells just 33,129 copies per day. When compared to last spring, Magyar Nemzet has lost over 12% of its readers.

Magyar Nemzet. Photo: Hír24.

Magyar Nemzet. Photo: Hír24.

The country’s two major left-centre print dailies — Népszabadság and Népszava — have seen their readership drop by 2.3% and 3.6% respectively in the first quarter. Although this isn’t great news for the future of left-centre print media in Hungary, the drop is more in line with general trends and the move to digital news, as opposed to the sudden collapse in readership that is being seen around Magyar Nemzet. It’s worth noting that up until now, Magyar Nemzet has done a better job of retaining its readership than its competitors, but all this has changed dramatically, following the dispute between its owner and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Népszabadság remains the country’s largest political print daily paper, with 41,736 copies sold per day, while Népszava is a distant third with 13,344 copies purchased each day. Interestingly, MFOR did not report on how the extremist, far-right Magyar Hírlap was doing, though the paper’s readership is even smaller than that of Népszava.

The only print publications that are actually doing better are a political weekly entitled Figyelő (which saw its readership jump by 12% in a year and by 5% this past quarter), and a handful of tabloid papers, notably Bors (+1.1%), Best (+8.9%) and Story (+8.9%).

Perhaps growing numbers of Hungarian are cluing out of politics and are turning to the world of light entertainment.

That having been said, Mr. Orbán’s shady and inexplicably wealthy adviser, Árpád Habonyi has launched his new local news site, called Lokál.hu, which replaces the bankrupt Helyi Téma free circulation publication. Both the previous paper and Lokál.hu are staunchly pro-government, although they do focus primarily on municipal and entertainment or pop culture news. Lokál is published by a company called Modern Media Group, and is owned by two men close to the prime minister: Mr. Habonyi, the current adviser, and Tibor Győri, who was director in the Prime Minister’s Office between 2010 and 2014.

What’s clear is that pro-government media is in a state of flux not seen since at least the 1990’s.


  1. Avatar Miklos Banfi says:

    Worth to note that MN has its mandatory presence in government offices whereas e.g. Népszabadság is forbidden or restricted. Obviously this must effect these numbers.

    • Avatar Christopher Adam says:

      Very good point, Miklós. I recall that years ago (before 2010), both Népszabadság and Magyar Nemzet always appeared in government offices and I think that the Saturday editions of these papers were even mailed out to many embassies and consulates abroad. I suspect that Népszabadság and Népszava have both since been exiled from many government departments and especially from local administrations.

  2. Recently, on Hungarian Spectrum, a commenter reported that the gift shop, in an otherwise quite well-run hospital, only offered right-wing publications. This may occur elsewhere too, affecting the more progressive papers’ circulations.

  3. Avatar Liz Aucoin says:

    I would also like to note that people, especially the young people are looking for lighter news, stuff that they can relax and read or watch. By focusing on politics and all the negative communistic style infighting within government ranks is too much for people and realizing that not much has changed from times before 1990 in many respects. People are going to be relying on the internet for news. They will also be looking to the smaller independent news sources for their info. All the bigger forms of media are now labeled as biased to either the left or the right, so it all seems more like propaganda to them. The older crowds still see newspapers as a form of support for whichever bias the particular news source represents. This is why you will see that older people will buy the paper if the paper continues to support who they support. In the case of the fight between Orban and Simicska, I have heard people say they will no longer read his publications because he is no longer Fidesz. They don’t even realize that the news is supposed to represent the truth in informing the public as to what is going on in the country, not to support a political party, but to keep the public informed. They can make up their own mind as to which party is right for them. People still have the mentality of communism in the sense that what papers they read represent where their loyalties lie. During the 80’s, we didn’t keep any copies of underground papers out in the open as my father was a 56’er and someone might suggest that he was organizing something if they seen a publication that wasn’t in line with the propaganda. People still see it that way, my aunt and uncles still are afraid to read independent news sources or foreign news, it is ingrained in them that it could get them into trouble, or they fully believe that the government sponsored papers are the only place to get the “truth”.

    • Young people are almost totally uninterested in politics and social life. They don’t trust any media, they don’t trust the internet as they know they won’t get more than the elite allows them to know.
      A smarter layer of the young generation acquire information through personal communication, mobile phone, texting, sharing the news of their own area and country with each other and putting the puzzle together and grow knowledgeable and well informed.

      The elite layer of the young generation is invisible, anonym and is out of the embrace of the NSA, they smart and are preparing for survival.

  4. Good point, Liz Aucoin. Old habits die hard.

    I object to your use of ‘communistic’ (whatever that means in this sense) leading up to ‘infighting’. Your usage sounds reactionary.

    If you can savvy the distinction between big-ell Liberal and small-ell ‘liberal’, then perhaps you will also understand the difference between big-cee Communist and little-cee ‘communist’. A Liberal may not be a liberal, just as a Communist may not be a communist.

    Infighting exists everywhere and no particular political persuasion has cornered the market (to use capitalist phraseology) on that activity.

    Your misuse of ‘communistic’ notwithstanding, the rest of your post is quite astute. I wont parse your piece as I agree with a lot of it.

    Kindly looze ‘communistic’. Okay?


  5. Avatar Liz Aucoin says:

    I apologize for the incorrect grammar in my comment, but I don’t apologize for the use of the words. I didn’t realize that to some, not using capital letters changed the meaning of the word. Correct grammar or not the Communist mentality is what I was trying to refer to. With our current politicians, it is all about seeking power, money, and being corrupt to a fault, using and abusing the people and the power. It is what nearly all of the current players learned about when they were in their youth. Unfortunately, most governments around the world have these elements, which is why it politics is so confusing to most people. It is hard to see the differences in many cases. What I mean by “communistic” is simply that people don’t know any other way, so it is just a new spin on an old ideology. Maybe it is not a proper word, or you would just like to see the word capitalized, I am not sure, but I think I was still clear on what I meant. Growing up under both a parliamentary democracy here in Canada and living much of it also under Communism in Hungary, I can see the similarities and the differences, mainly being who is the beneficiary of these systems. I hope you understand what I am trying say.

  6. Avatar Gyula Bognar, Jr. says:

    The Government, the towns, district’s mayor offices and the Fidesz party were all subscribers. They are not allowed to buy the Magyar Nemzet any more, they will buy the Magyar Hírlap from now on. This can easily account for the 12% drop. There will be more people who subscribe now, but will not renew, when the time comes. For them Habony and Szaniszló will tell what to see, what to think and what to say.

  7. You dont have to apologize for anything, Liz Aucoin, certainly not for the things that deeply affect you. (Are you really in the corner?)

    Uppercasing certain words gives those words different meanings. A member of the Conservative Party (whether of Ireland, Canada or elsewhere) is a Conservative. A member of the Liberal Party of Canada can be called a Liberal. A Communist Party of China member is a Communist, however he may be a capitalist in his beliefs. By the same flipped token, a Liberal may be a conservative and a Conservative a liberal. It all depends.

    So, uppercasing is reserved for organizational identification, nothing else. This rule is widely misused, hence the confusion that sometimes follows.

    When you misuse ‘communistic’ in reference to corruption, you imply that ‘communists’ (not Communists) either invented the practice or are the only ones to employ the practice, which clearly can not be true.

    You undercut your point when you say that “most governments around the world have these [corrupt] elements”. We are talking about places where there are no Communists to be found and probably very few communists.

    Contrary to what you may think about re your 1st post, you definitely were not “clear on what [you] meant”, otherwise I would not have complained.

    Had you said that the current Fidesz corruption (with all its attendant negatives) reminds you of pre1990 Communist Hungary, then I would have accepted that statement as your (valid) truth.

    I am not anticommunist, I am antiStalinist. Stalinism lingered in Hungary and elsewhere until regime changes occurred. Just as I dont capitalize boycott and maverick, I also do not capitalize ‘stalinism’, nor do I capitalize ‘neonazi’. Uppercase Nazis died during and sometime after World War Two. Now we have wannabe nazis and real fascists in the form of Jobbik.

    I only have an inkling of your backstory, Liz. We intersect. I first entered Hungary (briefly) in 1983 and extensively in 1984, likely when you lived there. Your story is different than mine. Just use the right words to tell it.

    “I hope you understand what I am trying to say.”


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