Staunton, Nov. 1 – According to Russian officials, the print runs of Russian newspapers and magazines have fallen 45 percent over the last five years, but Sovershenno Sekretno writer Olga Latunova says the real figure is as much as 60 percent. And she adds that there is no sign that this decline is about to end.
She outlines the usual suspects: rising costs of such publications because of price increases for paper, printing and distribution, a radical shift to the Internet, the collapse of advertising revenues, and the consequent collapse of the number of print publications (sovsekretno.ru/articles/gazety-i-zhurnaly-na-vykhod/).
Between 2009 and 2020, the number of print publications in Russia fell from 72,498 to 39,794 and many of those remaining decreased in frequency from daily newspapers to weekly or even monthly releases. At present, Russians use media 500 minutes a day, but they devote only 7.5 minutes to printed materials.
The collapse of advertising revenue has had an especially deleterious impact. In 2014, 72 percent of print media revenues came from advertising. Now, only 30 percent does. That means that in order to survive, newspapers and magazines must charge those who buy them more, something that is pricing them out of the market.
Some of this decline in advertising revenue reflects the judgment of other firms that putting ads in newspapers is not cost effective; but it also reflects the restrictions on various kinds of advertising that the government has imposed, a silent killer of many publications in Putin’s Russia.
Another silent killer was the government’s decision in 2014 to end the subsidies it provided for mailing print publications. That meant that newspapers and magazines had to pay more, and they had no choice but to pass on these costs to subscribers, leading many of the latter to end their relationships with the print world.
According to Latunova, another factor that simultaneously reflects the decline of print media and is pushing that segment of the market out of business is the collapse of kiosks where newspapers and magazines are sold. In 2010, Russia had 42,000 news kiosks. Now it has only 14,900.
That decline means that Russia now has one kiosk per 10,000 residents, “less than half of what the average coverage is in European countries.” With the disappearance of kiosks, people lose the habit of buying and reading newspapers and magazines and that helps kill off ever more of them.
Latunova notes that Putin and other officials have talked about the need to do something about these developments, but so far, she insists, they have been all talk and no action. And as a result, Russia’s once vibrant print industry is rapidly going under.