For the last five years, Elena Shtikova, executive director of the Union of Print Industry Enterprises says, “the number of employees in print media has fallen by a quarter. Some have found jobs in the electronic media, but not all.” And according to government figures, the number of print media in Russia has fallen from 73,000 titles to 52,629.
This decline in turn has had a “multiplier” effect leading to the closure of typographies and the elimination of distribution points. For the next tear, Falichev continues, the number of workers in the sector is predicted to decline by 15 percent with advertising revenue falling another ten percent.
Part of this decline reflects a shift to the Internet, but part of it is the product of government decisions limiting certain kinds of advertising such as for alcohol and tobacco. That has cut the income of newspapers and journals by “approximately a third,” officials in the sector say.
The print media used to attract 25 percent of all advertising revenue, but now it brings in “less than four percent.” That has led to increases in the sale prices of newspapers and magazines as have rising costs for paper, printing and logistics. And print runs have fallen 10 to 15 percent every six months.
Kiosks have disappeared. In 2004, there were 42,000 of them; now there are 16,500. Papers and magazines are now sold in more stores, but not enough more to make up for the collapse of news kiosks, Falichev continues. And despite efforts, only about one of five network stores carries newspapers and magazines.
The overall figures are bleak. In 2013, Russian periodicals were issued in a total print run of one billion copies. By 2017, that number had fallen to 500 million. “During the first half of 2018,” Falichev says, “it fell another ten percent and at present does not exceed 450 million copies in all.”
Postal costs, rising faster than inflation, also are pushing down subscriptions.
The Voyenno-Promyshlenny kuryer journalist says that any recovery will depend not just on more government assistance but on changing laws and regulations that now limit what advertising newspapers can carry and other services they might provide. The sector requires a complex approach and greater cooperation among its various components.
Obviously more needs to be done and the government needs to help out because under conditions of information war and sanctions, it would be “simply stupid” for the government to allow Russia’s print media to die out.