Thursday, June 21, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Only Three Russians in Ten Now Rely on TV for News

Paul Goble

Vienna, June 21 – Only 30 percent of Russians rely on television as their primary source of news, according to a new survey. And that finding calls into question the ability of the Kremlin to control the news diet of the Russian population by carefully managing those supposedly “commanding heights” of the country’s media hierarchy.
But perhaps even more intriguingly, this poll of 1120 people conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value and the Romir Research Group suggests that the Internet is increasingly filling the gap left by television and that Russians are making this newest form of media into their own (
The most important of these involves what the researchers call “the thousandites” – that is, blogs with more than 1,000 regular visitors. In contrast to other countries, where the most successful bloggers are those who enjoyed fame before going online, in Russia, this category includes mainly Russians who won their spurs on the web alone.
At present, the survey found, eight of the 20 most visited sites on the Runet have no other content than that created by those who visit them. Abroad, on the other hand, the most popular sites reproduce content from elsewhere, including news agencies, newspapers and magazines, and pre-existing materials.
What this means, of course, is that those Russians who do go online are increasingly creating their own information environment rather than relying on other, more traditional sources – including television news that the current regime seeks to control – in order to filter and structure it for them.
Moreover, according to the study and supporting this conclusion, only two percent of Russians who go online regularly rely on television as a source of news. And those who do go online overwhelmingly and in all age categories say they do so to get news – far higher figures for such use than found in other countries.
Yet another intriguing Russian difference is that of those in Russia who do go online, half either have their own blog or their own website, and 11 percent are already using three-dimensional graphics, an indication that in this area at least, the Russians have skipped a generation of development in which many Western web users remain.
In reporting on this study, Profil’s Andrei Annenkov suggested that for the moment Russia’s journalists do not need to worry too much about the rise of the blogosphere. Its denizens “cannot [yet] replace the regular army of stringers, correspondents and editors” that traditional outlets have.
But the situation appears likely to change soon. Already, Russia’s bloggers are catching the mistakes professionals make and “filling in the gaps” of their coverage. And that in turn means that as the Internet generation comes of age, the traditional media, including television, will have to work harder or find itself marginalized.
If the traditional outlets do not do so, Annenkov suggests, they and their patrons will find themselves increasingly irrelevant, however significant either group now feels itself and its friends to be.

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