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Zaman’s circulation figures – the Gülen effect?

January 9, 2013

Daily Zaman is often described as Turkey’s most read newspaper, with its circulation having recently tipped over the 1 million mark. It was therefore rather interesting to see a recent chart on medyatava.com indicating that this figure is made up almost entirely of subscribers, with only around 20,000 copies actually bought in shops every day.

This isn’t a complete surprise – for all its faults Zaman has never really been a “populist” newspaper, always self-consciously higher brow than the average fare on the Turkish newsstands. It’s pretty rare to see the local simitçi walking around Istanbul with a copy of Zaman tucked under his arm – at least in comparison with Sabah, Posta, Hürriyet, etc.

The high proportion of subscriptions can almost certainly be ascribed to Zaman’s links to the Fethullah Gülen religious movement (cemaat). Copies of the paper are delivered to most businesses/schools/individuals/hotels associated with the cemaat, which would account for the disproportionately high subscription number. As the “wikileaked” Stratfor intelligence agency cable explained back in 2009:

“FGC [Fethullah Gülen Community] businesses advertise heavily on FGC media, while FGC-owned media runs human interest stories and profiles of FGC sympathisers, businesses and schools. FGC members and sympathisers take holidays in FGC-owned hotels and shop at FGC-owned stores and invest in FGC financial institutions. Graduates of FGC cramming schools funded by FGC businesses often serve as teachers in FGC schools overseas. Finally, FGC media, funded by FGC businesses, reacts sharply to any criticism directed at Fethullah Gulen.”

A similar pattern can be observed at Today’s Zaman, the English-language arm of Zaman, which has 8,500 subscribers to just 1,900 sales.

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While on the dull subject of newspaper circulation figures, it’s worth taking the opportunity to note that since last month’s shock resignations from Taraf, the paper has seen its circulation increase substantially. While Taraf had previously hovered around 50,000, this figure is now approaching close to 70,000. Whether or not the resignations were good from a journalistic perspective, they certainly seem to have made economic sense.

7 Responses to “Zaman’s circulation figures – the Gülen effect?”

  1. Jgibbs Says:

    The Zaman a high brow newspaper? Really?


  2. Not high brow, but certainly of a higher brow than other large-circulation Turkish newspapers out there.

  3. Just a correction Says:

    Yeni Asya is definitely published by non-Gulenist Nurcus.

  4. Karamsar Yusuf Says:

    “Subscribers?” Eh, Mr Armstrong if you know anything about what you write on, then you must know that in towns and cities across Turkey, the esnaf (i.e. small business) all Zaman as part of the package deal from belonging to the “movement” which for them is a kind of insurance: in two worlds, not bad really. High brow? I think you’ve been fooled by the lay-out.


    • Well if I understand your first point correctly, that’s exactly what I’m saying – I’m not sure you understand the post.

      Your second point I explain in comment above – regardless of layout there’s simply no comparison between Zaman and Posta, Takvim, Sabah, etc.


  5. […] unsolicited, to businesses with ties (either tight or loose) to Gülen. According to figures that I noticed last year, only a tiny fraction of Zaman’s circulation figures come from actual sales. I don’t know about […]


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