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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

MEDIA WATCH: Weeklies Find a Niche In Tough Media Market




A new weekly news magazine, Kompania, hit the newsstands this week. It has entered one of the most competitive segments of the Moscow media market. In recent years, weekly magazines have popped up like mushrooms after rain -- possibly because they are a relatively new commodity and possibly because they are what Russian journalists should have been producing all along.


In the Soviet era, there were no weekly news magazines. Ogonyok (which still exists, but has completely changed its design and content) was the closest thing, especially during perestroika. It ran hard-hitting articles on modern life and Stalin-era atrocities. But in later years it was better known for the revelation that its deputy editor, Valentin Yumashev, ghost-wrote President Boris Yeltsin's book "A View From the Kremlin" and later became Yeltsin's chief of staff. Ogonyok is now controlled by the tycoon Boris Berezovsky.


Ogonyok's most direct competitor these days is Itogi, the news magazine published by Vladimir Gusinsky's MOST Group in association with Newsweek. It is almost like Newsweek, except the "Perspectives" section (the one with the funny quotes) is somewhat baffling and the cartoons there are nonpolitical. When Sergei Parkhomenko, one of Russia's top news reporters, founded the magazine, he wanted it to be a source of coherent political information for people in the provinces. It's hard to say how successful he has been. Although it says in Itogi that its circulation is 73,000, this figure has not been independently audited. Others have estimated its circulation to be closer to 30,000.


The weekly magazine Kommersant, which was recently renamed Vlast (Power) is now likely to compete with Ogonyok and Itogi on the general-interest market. It once had its entire staff leave to set up Ekspert, the most respected economic weekly in Russia, which is controlled by Uneximbank. The bank Imperial last year set up the magazine Profil, which, true to its name, profiles important people, and there are a couple of shadier publications like the magazines Lyudi (People) and Litsa (Faces). There is the irreverent and often brilliant Stolitsa (Capital City) and the personal investment magazine Dengi (Money). Now there is also Kompania (Company), set up by the National Reserve Bank.


There is not a single news magazine I know that does not exaggerate its circulation. And there are few that write about politics and are not controlled by a bank. Some magazines (like Profil) lost close to $1 million in their first year of publication. But the weekly magazine format, especially with the lead time necessary to print the magazines in Finland or elsewhere in Europe, is ideal for the Russian journalistic soul. You do not have to report the news fast, as it happens, and you do not have to draw a line between news and analysis.