Staunton, May 29 – In the first quarter, Mediascope found, 75 percent of residents of major Russian cities turned to the Internet at least once a day, while only 70.4 percent of this category watched television, the first time Internet has outpaced television in Russia this way and something that will have major consequences for advertisers and possibly the Kremlin as well.
For advertisers, this shift means that the argument television networks make that they can deliver a larger audience than anyone else no longer holds at least for residents of large Russian cities. Consequently, at least some of them will likely redirect their advertising away from television and toward the Internet.
And for the Kremlin, this means that television no longer has the unrivalled power it did up to now to structure the opinions of people, something on which the Putin regime has long relied. At the very least, this shift will make television a more expensive and less effective tool than it has been (vedomosti.ru/technology/articles/2019/05/29/802699-internet-dogonyaet).
There are at least three important qualifications to this. First and perhaps most important, most urban Russians are using both the Internet and television and in roughly equal proportions. Consequently, it would be a mistake to see this as something more than an indication of a trend, albeit one that is likely to continue.
Second, while more urban Russians report using the Internet than watching television, they may not be using the web primarily for news and information but rather for entertainment or shopping. Instead, they likely are continuing to rely on television for news and comment and thus have their views shaped by it rather than the Internet.
And third, not all Russians are turning to the Internet at this rate. Rural Russians continue to rely on television far more than on Internet, as do older and less educated Russians even in the largest cities. For many Russians, TV remains as important as ever – and perhaps more so given that falling incomes are leading to cutbacks in purchases of more costly alternatives.