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Digitalization

As in the other BRICS countries, the media industries in Russia, too, are going through a period of digital transformation, driven by new processes such as the constantly growing supply of digital media content and the increase in audience demand for news and entertainment on new digital platforms. A study based on interviews with 50 senior managers in the media industry identified four main possible scenarios for the media industry, which, through its rapid development, could significantly influence the contours of the Russian media system (see Figure 5.1) (Vartanova et al., 2017).

The scenarios, though not unique for Russia, are shaped by two recent trends. The first is the rapid change in media consumption patterns and audience behaviour. Within a decade, media consumption is expected to change with new generational media cultures, since young Russians representing a ‘digital’ generation become older and are expected to replace audiences who formed their media consuming habits in the pre-digital era. As many surveys demonstrate, more than half of 18-45 year old Russians consume news online, while less than one third of 45-64 group do (Dunas et al., 2017; Dunas and Vartanov, 2020), resulting into a move away from watching linear TV and reading print media. A top-manager representing print media remarked: ‘the audience will migrate online.There is an audience born online and it will remain there’. Another CEO from a production company assumed that in ten years ‘we’ll see the change of generations - coming of the people who have been living the whole life with the Internet or linked to media consumption and changing business models, mobile device and content search are a new reality, not just a TV screen or a button’ (Vartanova et al., 2017: 42). However, a few managers expected continuation of some type of traditional media consumption patterns.

The second trend is the shift from the advertising-driven business model, which currently dominates the industry, to a model based on content sales. As

Content-sale business model

II III

Traditional media consumption

New media consumption

I

Advertising-sale business model

FIGURE 5.1 Scenarios of Russian media industry development the editor-in-chief of a major content aggregator stated, ‘The future is surely in favour of the paid subscriptions, but for the time being, the audience, moreover, the Russian one, is not ready for that’ (Vartanova et al., 2017: 42). Nevertheless, revenues from advertising sales (at least, in their traditional forms) are going to decrease in the Russian media. An editor-in-chief of a major online media in Russia predicted: ‘Sooner or later, the quality niche media will be the first in need to collect some cash from its users, which would lead to decrease of their overall number but also to the revenue growth’ (Ibid., 2017: 43).

The four scenarios can be described as follows:

I ‘Inertial’ - continuation of existing practices of media consumption retaining the advertising model as the key one in media business;

II ‘Nonlinear television-based’ - relies on revenues from content sales with the preservation of the traditional media consumption model, based on watching TV;

III ‘Revolutionary’ - mass rejection of old media consumption practices and simultaneous rapid content sales growth;

IV ‘Customization-oriented’ - spread of a new media consumption model while retaining the advertisement-driven model (Vartanova et al., 2017: 43-44).

Although all these scenarios are possible on the basis of the empirical data, the majority of top managers believed that the ‘inertial’ scenario was the most probable. While caution should be exercised with any prediction, this research has shown that digital transformation will continue to reshape the contours of Russian media business and digitalization as a process will define both transformation of business models and the development of digital media.

 
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