After the fall of communism, the number of available newspapers, as well as readership, blossomed in Mongolia. Although sales started to fall in 2004 as the range of other media grew, they appear to have stabilised. In 2010 sales grew by 3.2%, when the total annual circulation for the 130 newspapers reached 19.83m, according to Mongolian Media Today 2011, published by the independent Press Institute (PI). Of total circulation, dailies account for 70%, weeklies 13%, biweeklies 7%, bimonthlies 8% and monthlies 2%.

DAILIES: Mongolia’s best-selling daily is Udriin Sonin, with a circulation of 9000. The newspaper was launched in 1999 and is partly owned by President T. Elbegdorj, and leans towards his Democratic Party. It is followed by Unuudur (circulation 6300), owned by Mongol News, which also owns the UB Post (an English-language paper) and is part of a business group that also owns the TV station Channel 25 and the Ulaanbaatar Hotel.

Unuudur is considered one of the more balanced publications, though it has leaned to the left-of-centre Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) in the past.

Next are the former government newspaper Zuunii Medee with circulation of 5800 and Unen, Mongolia’s oldest newspaper. Unen was founded as the MPP newspaper on the model of the Soviet Union’s Pravda and is still owned by the party. There is also the relatively new Udriin Shuudan (circulation 4200) and the more neutral Undesnii Shuudan, for which the PI does not have a sales figure (it was estimated at 4500 in 2009).

Ardyn Erkh, despite a relatively small circulation ( estimated at less than 2000 in 2009), is connected to the former defence minister L. Bold and is considered influential. It is also linked to the popular online portal, giving it a wide online readership.

WEEKLIES AND OTHERS: In contrast to many other newspaper markets, few major daily newspapers link directly to Sunday stablemates. The majority of weeklies and other non-daily newspapers are small enterprises with circulations of fewer than 2000. Circulation overall has fallen dramatically, from 4.1m in 2008 to 2.5m in 2010. Monthlies’ circulation has also dropped to 359,150 in 2010 from 750,556 in 2008, though sales of biweeklies rose from 1.1m to 1.3m. The decline in weekly sales can partly be explained by the decision of Zindaa, with its circulation of 2000 per issue, to publish every 10 to 14 days instead of weekly.

Important non-daily newspapers include the biweekly Zar Medee Surtalchilgaa (circulation 4200) and the weeklies Seruuleg (8300), Khumuusiin Amidral (4000) and Khumuus (7300), the latter two of which are owned by the MPP-supporting Ulaanbaatar Printing Company. Several of the other “newspapers” with a few thousand readers are issued by official organisations or NGOs for their own target audience.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE: Mongolia also has a small but lively foreign-language press that acts as “a bridge to the world”, B. Indra, the editor-in-chief of the Mongol Messenger told OBG. The readership consists of expatriates and visitors, as well as those abroad with an interest in Mongolia. Publications include two English newspapers, the weekly Mongol Messenger and biweekly UB Post, with circulations of 1000 and 2200 respectively. The former is owned by the state-run Montsame agency. Montsame also owns the weekly Russian-language Novosti Mongolii (circulation 500), Chinese Mongolyn Medee (1100) and Japanese Mongol Tsushin (550). These are supplemented by the privately owned Russian Mongoliya Segodnya (2000), which, likeNovosti, is for the resident Russian community. Finally, the government of Bayan-Olgii aimag (province) publishes the monthly Jana Dauir in Kazakh, the language of the majority of its inhabitants.

SALES: Mongolia ranks 21st worldwide in terms of how many daily newspapers it publishes (15), according to the World Association of Newspapers. It ranks 138th in terms of annual newspaper sales per 1000 people. Sales through subscriptions account for 72.3% of newspaper circulation, which is even higher (80%) for dailies. This can be explained by the shortage of availability on newsstands, particularly outside Ulaanbaatar.