Yisrael Hayom distributor (file)
Yisrael Hayom distributor (file) Israel news photo: Flash 90

Israel's third-largest daily newspaper, Maariv, is in a state of collapse, and has stopped selling its newspapers in a daily printed version. In addition, Yediot Aharonot is about to fire dozens of workers. Billionaire Sheldon Adelson and the newspaper he owns, Israel Hayom, are being blamed for this state of affairs, as is Haaretz, which owns the printing press where Israel Hayom is printed.

Israel Hayom, which is distributed for free, has successfully taken the lead in Israel's newspaper wars, with more readers than Yediot Aharonot, Israel's dominant newspaper until the past few years. Its success has, naturally, come at the expense of its rivals. The rivals say there are politics behind the whole thing: They say Sheldon Adelson, a supporter of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, wants to put his competitors out of business so that Israel Hayom can assist Netanyahu's government by whitewashing its many failings.

Monday's Israel Hayom carries an article by columnist Gonen Ginat, in which he seeks to show that the accusations are unfounded.

Ginat cites reports by TGI, a media monitoring firm, that show Maariv was in decline before 2007, the year Israel Hayom showed up on the scene. In the years 2000 – 2007, he says, exposure to the newspaper dropped by almost 40% from 27.1% to 17%.

A similar thing happened to Yediot. Ginat writes: "According to TGI, between 2000 and 2007 exposure to the paper went down from 50.7% to 38.4%, and this is a 24% decline. All this, before Israel Hayom showed up."

This indicates, Gonat says, that "the great escape of readers from both Maariv and Yediot Aharonot began before Israel Hayom showed up and became the most widely read newspaper in Israel."

He adds that while Yediot adamantly opposes free distribution of newspapers, it is estimated that it, too, gives out about 100,000 copies of the newspaper for free every day.

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