First a television channel then an Internet site and now a daily newspaper with exactly the same name —HABERTURK — came into our lives on March 1. The insistence on this overused title for a new brand seemed to be puzzling for many people but despite the confusion, HABERTURK (HT) daily claimed to be different than the rest of the newspapers in the market. The advertising campaigns mainly focused on its unique format and printing quality. The owner, Ciner Group, was welcome as a competitor to Dogan Media Group since the latter obviously represented the concentration in the media market in Turkey. However, the choice for the editor-in-chief position should have been the first wake-up call for the ones who had high hopes for this new daily. Fatih Altaylı is quite a well known figure in the Turkish media circle. He has a reputation for his aggressive style of expressing himself and also he can easily be defined as a defender of machismo in addition to his sexist and militarist discourse in the Turkish media. To give you an idea, two recent incidents immediately come to my mind: On March 2002, on a panel he mentioned about a female human rights lawyer by saying “I should be damned if I do not sexually harrass her at the moment I see her.” His other comments were rather more unpalatable. Writing in his column at the HABERTURK website, Altayli, apparently furious about a female columnist, Gülay Göktürk’s observations about the Turkish military at a TV show, declared incongruously, “Miss, perhaps you are not aware but that army is protecting you between your legs too!” I suppose no more quotations are needed to illustrate the style of Altayli.. So let’s move on.
With Fatih Altaylı in charge, HT came in big with bright pictures on a glossy paper reminding me of product catalogues of supermarkets. It was very obvious that this newspaper was there to look at but not to read. On the other hand there were differences of course. Yes, the quality of the paper is high. The good thing is the reader does not get any ink smudge on his/her fingers (which I personally have no objection though) and also the format is smaller than the traditional broadsheet (74.9 cm. x 59.7 cm.) newspapers in Turkey. HT is 50 cm. X 35 cm. in size which does not fit any of the known formats such as tabloid (43 x 28) or Berliner (47 x 31.5) in Europe. HT is offering not one but four supplements (economy, sports, city, lifestyle) in addition to the main section daily and Sunday supplement during the weekend. So you can have five pieces of extremely thin newspaper everyday full of colorful pictures. What else should a reader want?
As a consequence of the media’s investing on technological infrastructure rather than proper news writing for the last two decades, today we have nicely printed but contentwise hollow dailies. When we look at the sales in a total 5 million circulation, HT is not doing too bad. In the first week, its circulation was approximately 210.000 rising up to 290.000 during the weekends. But the price of 50 kuruş plays a huge role in this circulation rate. From now on HT’s price will be doubled (1 lira) during the weekends and will be 75 kurus in the weekdays. This increase in price will definitely affect the sales in three big cities (Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir) because the price will stay as 50 kurus in all Anatolian cities. The other interesting side of HT is having no celebrity columnists on its staff and besides there are not many columnists. The most powerful supplement of HT is sports where all the coverage is merely devoted to soccer. Also in the main section there are many news items taken from the blogs and news sites. Some of those might be considered new in Turkish media scene but there are so many things that never change such as the half-naked woman picture on the back page, poorly written news items, and countless spelling and factual mistakes. But we should give the HT team some credit. Their first promotion attempt was giving a pink toy computer for kids for 59 coupons. I think that was just a brilliant idea and definitely a new one!