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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The RuNet's Remaining Wild Card

Last week’s sale of Aport.ru was seen by many as a turning point for the Russian Internet.

Over the past six months a handful of Internet investment groups have been snapping up the nation's top web sites and lining them up behind major portal projects.

Aport.ru was one of the last obvious targets among the RuNet's elite, and it seems to mark the end of the buying binge.

But there is one exception to this wave of consolidation among the ranks of the RuNet's most popular sites.

RosBusinessConsulting's rbc.ru is hardly the kind of flashy new portal beginning to dominate the Russian web. But with as many as 250,000 unique visitors on good news days and a daily average of 100,000, RBC is a force to be reckoned with.

Unlike most elite Russian sites, RBC opened for business long before securing a domain name.

In 1992, the company began providing financial information to a handful of clients. Since then, it's moved into a business and political news while the Internet has become its primary means of distributing its gospel.

RBC’s roots in financial information and its recent shift toward news services give its site a unique feel.

More than most portals, news is the meat weighting RBC's front page down. And as Larisa Bulgakova, the head of RBC's news department, is quick to point out, their news is not portal-quality.

Almost all in-house content, the headlines streaming down RBC's front page are the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface lies a huge body of reporting on business, politics and high technology put together by a team of 60 editors and reporters.

But RBC is not just a news service. Headlines are at the heart of the front page, but they’re sandwiched between market indices, exchange rates and an index of other specialized financial information.

And these business information services are as extensive as the site’s news. The small front-page index is the gateway to a wealth of archived data on Russian stocks, bonds and currencies.

Through the effective layout, depth and quality of its content, RBC has found a highly popular balance of business news and information.

But it’s not clear how long this balance can command such a leading position on the RuNet.

The key to RBC's success is that its mix of news and information targets the business-oriented middle class that many of the country’s Internet users come from.

But as more and more Russians from different walks of life hook up to the Net it's going to take more than 200,000 visitors a day to be one the nation's top sites.

And since RBC targets a group that is already well-represented online, the company can't expect much growth from these new Russian Internet users.

Up to this point RBC's unique combination of news and business services has made it one of the most popular sites on the Russian web.

Now the question is whether it wants to change that magic formula in order to hold onto its position.

Rick Burnes is deputy editor of TheMoscowTimes.com.