There are essentially two auditors of the Spanish media - the OJD which measures how many copies are printed, and the slightly larger, but perhaps less believable, EGM, which says how many people read them (or see or listen to them in the case of broadcasters). The OJD is older, similar to the British ABC.
The EGM sometimes appears to be quite generous with the numbers - with twelve people, for example, reading each and every copy of our local daily newspaper. Perhaps that includes Internet visitors (who rarely read an entire newspaper on the screen).
I once owned a 'free' newspaper with three editions (The Entertainer), rather before these things were popular. We were printing 40,000 copies for a while there, although the OJD rather unkindly audited us at a disappointing 39,950. They then wanted to triple their price because it was, you know, three editions. With the unsurprising result that...
OJD exits left, followed by bear.
Printing papers these days is quite expensive. Let us say, as a nice round figure (variables include colour, pagination and of course volume), one euro a copy. Distribution is extra - getting them to the corner newspaper kiosk (or, in the case of the freebies, to the corner bar or shop). Distribution for the ordinary press is a bit cheaper per unit, because the costs are shared, although it remains disturbingly high (see the figures here). A large agency like Boyacá picks them up and takes them fast to the sales points - essentially for all of the competing titles.
In the case of the freebies, it's each one for himself (although the EWNMG has now acquired a couple of its erstwhile competitors which must lower their unit distribution costs).
There are, of course, many other costs typical to any business: premises, staff, transport, social security and bird-food for the parrot.
However, the printing costs are higher these days than ever, and - for the regular newspapers - readership is down. Profit, if there is to be any, must come from the advertisers. This, as we have seen elsewhere (BoTs passim) leads to manipulation of the news items, especially when the juicy institutional advertising accounts are signed. Even so, some of the major Spanish dailies (including the ABC, El País and La Vanguardia) are now talking of reducing their editions to just two or three a week in 2018.
The weekly free newspapers, particularly (and of course!) the foreign-owned foreign-language freebies, get no institutional advertising at all. They also (in my experience) get no, or very little, Spanish agency advertising. You can search all day without finding any adverts for Volkswagens, Parador hotels, Nesquik, toothpaste or cough medicines. Perhaps to save the agency the bother of a second advert in another language, perhaps to keep them focused on the traditional high-volume kick-back paid by their larger customers, known as un rápel, and perhaps because it's 'all in the family', which doesn't include furriners (sorry).
While a normal newspaper goes to the kiosk, and a free publication can be easily put into the letterbox, in the case of foreign-language free-sheets we must ask the reader to pick up a copy, which means there must be something to read. Costs again go up.
So what do they live on? Local advertisers, usually foreigners. Which brings us back to where we started: the circulation figures. I looked at the EWN's slightly alarming Media Pack (which begins with a Donald Trump quote) and found a claim of 'more than half a million copies per month' (a month has, I guess, 4.3 weeks in it) and a readership of 'more than half a million readers per week'. I wrote the other day and asked them for some audited figures, but haven't heard anything from them so far. At a presumed 120,000 copies per week (six editions), they have a higher print run than the 99,000 daily sales figure reported for El País!
Newspapers, free ones and paid for ones, have all fallen for the charms of the Internet. The thing is - it's almost free. You just pay the writers (and, in the certain cases, the lay-out artists), and you wait for your readers to show up. Some Spanish dailies, like El Diario and El Español, only exist as cyber-news.
Then there are the bloggers, who (like Spanish Shilling) apparently do their thing for free!
The readers, of course, are going to be visiting more than just one site (one newspaper), receiving a plurality of differently-shaded news. They probably won't dwell on the advertisers any more than they do reading a newspaper. After all, with the TV or radio, you are forced to sit through an advert: with a newspaper, you simply turn the page.
With the subscription news-service Business over Tapas (here) - there's no adverts to be leery of (although...).