Russian Web 2.0 – ‘Pravda’ of the RUNET
I was a lucky kid. Since I was seven, I waited with great anticipation for lunch time, when my mother, who worked at a large publishing house, would bring a freshly printed pack of Soviet newspapers, like “Izvestiya,” “Pravda,” “Trud,” “Komsomolskaya Pravda,” “Krasnaya Zvezda,” “Sovetsky Sport,” all in all, up to 10+ newspapers. There was nothing more pleasant than to chomp on a juicy apple and read all the latest news in one pack! I even used to fight with my older brother over who will get “Sovetsky Sport” and “Komsomolskaya Pravda” first.
Despite the abundance of styles, from the stiff and official “Pravda” to the more relaxed and youthful “Komsomolskaya Pravda”, the opinions expressed were trimmed to the rules of the reigning Soviet propaganda machine. Only after the genie of glasnost came out of Gorbachev’s bottle, I saw some unusually critical articles in the Soviet press. Even then, people still could not really speak up or relate their opinions to particular events, except discussing it with friends or relatives in their tiny kitchens, where people could discuss anything and everything at small kitchen tables with the help of vodka and pickles…
Alas, in the early Yeltsin era, the newly minted democratic Russian media developed in a motley crew of yellow press, scandals and soap operas. Often it was hard to sift through this flow and find some real pearls of genuine truth and compelling critic. In the late 90’s, the Internet gave birth to the blogging universe, and it quickly gained popularity from mass users, journalists, politicians and critics, creating a gigantic Russian salad of opinions and philosophies never tasted before.
Today Russian blogging services are on their way up. The latest research by Yandex, the Russian search engine No. 1, showed that the two most popular services in the Russian Internet (RUNET) are LiveJournal’s Russian language community (RULJ) and LiveInternet (LI). On June 6, 2007, the RULJ proudly recorded 1 million registered users and blogs. Yet the long-standing #2 blogging site LI is rapidly reaching its main rival, RULJ, in terms of new blogs and everyday notes.
However, the gap is still wide: LI has 170,000 daily visitors, while there are 600,000 visitors at RULJ. LI’s General Director German Klimenko said to CNews that the number of active blogs at LI will exceed LJ by the end of 2007. Yandex research indicates that the overall growth of the Russian blogging sphere is 74% (41% worldwide), however the total number of Russian blogs account for only 3% of worldwide blogs. Analysts believe that by 2008 there will be at least 10 million blogs in the Russian part of the global blogosphere.
Let’s make a quick comparison between LI and RULJ. Once you check or register to both, one thing becomes clear immediately: RULJ is definitely more mature and garners an older audience. LI, boasting a kaleidoscope of services, is crafted for teenagers and young adults. Naturally, LI’s audience is growing faster than that of RULJ. After all, kids are craving for company and socializing. The big difference is in the quality of content and blogs, where at LI bored teenagers spill out their fresh half-thoughts and desires, while the good ol’ RULJ crowd is much more content with serious topics and informative content. There is a great number of really interesting blogs and boards at RULJ. Nevertheless, both blog arenas cover well for their type of audiences.
Depressed Russians and Football Widows
Well, yes, when you are entering the Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport, the first Russians who you see are not smiling and look pretty gloomy. But actually associating Russians with depression – that sounds funny to me. Little did I know that a new term “a Russian” means just that! Here is what one RULJ user, http://mi3ch.livejournal.com/1131649.html, offered to discuss to the Russian blogging community. Under the topic “presenteeism” this user shared newly coined English language terms that hadn’t yet come to Russia. These are the first three words:
“mac nazi” – people crazy about Apple Macintosh products
”football widow” – a woman who believes her husband is dead during football matches
”a russian” – a person who is constantly in depression and sees the world in black
And there is much more of this new language in there.
Now, how about checking the most popular blogs in Russia? Yandex regularly publishes its own rating of RUNET’s blogs at: Blogs.yandex.ru/top. As of July 3, 2007, there were 2,189,160 blogs rated on the Yandex system.
For example, the top-4 blogs in the Russian Internet on July 4, 2007, included:
1. http://www.Ajdnevnik.ru – Alexander Jdanov and pictures of the “Star Factory” – popular music show
2. drugoi.livejournal.ru – “an illustrated magazine about everything in the world”
3. http://lleo.aha.ru/dnevnik/whatis — Blog of Leonid Kaganov, Russian writer
4. aqua_snezhok.livejournal.com – mainly various photos of glamour, animals, people and fashion
Blogger Services Rating by Yandex, July 3, 2007
• LiveInternet 51,823 records on July 3
• LiveJournal 48,439
• Diary.ru 18,609
• Blogs.Mail.Ru 12,289
• Love ♥ Planet 7,935
• Planeta.Rambler.ru 2,875
• Beon.ru 2,398
• Jamango 2,129
Search in blogs by Yandex, July 3, 2007
• Steve Bloom
• Transformers the game
• Timothy and Sobchak
• Harry Potter
On July 3, 2007, popular categories included (most popular are in caps letters): Anime, CRAP, spring, VIDEO, questions, children, DIARY, friends, Eurovision, LJ, life, games, interesting, Internet, history, pictures, cinema, books, culture, private, lytdybr or ksnls,h, love, people, my thoughts, my life, MUSIC, thoughts, thoughts aloud, mood, news about life, about me, rest, positive, POLITICS, pranks, nature, psychology, travel, job, pondering, various, dreams, events, sport, links, poems, tv, creativity, tests, films, PHOTO, football, hockey, school, humor, me, me and my friends.
Copycats Lure Millions of Users
However large RULJ and LI communities are, luckily there is much more that you can find in the Russian blogosphere. Ever wondered what the Russian copies of the famous Western blog sites have been? Here you are: MoiKrug.ru is a local version of LinkedIn; Odnoklassniki.ru – Classmates.ru; Fakultet.ru, VKontakte.ru — FaceBook; Habrahabr.ru – Dig.com; Privet.ru (Comby) – MySpace. MoiKrug focuses on professional community. Odnoklassniki are looking for lost contacts, mainly from their high schools. VKontakte and Fakultet are oriented towards students. While the copycats of the “One Million Dollar Site” that secured a real million to its British owner did not spark with the skeptical Russian web-community, social networks quickly went berserk.
The latest hit of the Russian Web 2.0 is VKontakte.ru. Recently Alexa (www.alexa.com), a leading Web Statistic Portal, placed VKontakte as the Top-4 Russian site, right after such giants as Mail.ru, Yandex and Rambler. Users praise the site for easy-to-use design and many features similar to Facebook. For example, recently VKontakte announced video, allowing users to add videos to their pages. The site also allows you to search by job contact, Friends, and remind you of your friends’ birthdays. According to VKontakte statistics, some 12,000 people register on this site daily.
Created in 2006, Habrahabr.ru, an analog of Dig.com, became successful almost immediately. Habrahabr’s audience include people interested in the Web development and Internet economy, web-designers, programmers, journalists, analysts and various businesses interested in the Internet. The project allows its users to add blogs, write articles, paste news and create personal audio and video programs. In 2007 Habrahabr gained the Project of the Year 2007 and Best Internet Community Awards.
Apart from these sites that help to find friends and provide socializing platform, there are a few interesting projects covering various social needs.
For example, according to Habrahabr, recently E-Generator.ru supported by FINAM holding, launched DrugMe.ru (note that in Russian drug literally means “a friend”), a social site for people with various illnesses interested in socializing with each other, finding better drugs and doctors, recommending good clinics, etc. Among the services which differ from RULJ, a sick person can search among users with the same diagnosis and leave a reference about a particular doctor and hospital, and many other things. By the end of 2007, the site hopes to get at least one million users. And its main promotion strategy will be using virus marketing via the satisfied pool of first users, supplemented by catchy medical news and success stories.
Education is another sphere that is destined to be Web-two-oed. As an example, in 2006 Intel and TransTelecom jointly launched a Web 2.0 project for Russian teachers. The Letopisi.ru project aimed at educating teachers in using Web 2.0 principles to create a platform for collective educational projects. Letopisi.ru helped many Russian teachers involve their students in group projects.
Show Me the Money: ‘Cherchez La Femme’ a la Russ
So, where is the money? Mamba.ru President, Nikita Sherman, said that some 15 million people use internet dating sites. And this market is growing 70% to 100% annually. Thus, in 2006 web-dating site owners harvested USD 34 million of profits. According to iKS-Consulting, 52% of these audience are men with higher education and business owners. Yes, for a chance to find your Cinderella/Jolie or a Super/Spiderman, Russian men and women don’t mind spending their hard earned rubles.
Yet Web 2.0 site owners also search for the “green” light in the end of Web tunnel. Given that you created a unique, popular and useful site, the easiest way is selling your start-up business and merging with large Russian Web cash cows. That’s what MoiKrug.ru and Damochka.ru did, selling their businesses to Yandex and Rambler respectively. However, top managers of Fakultet.ru chose a different way to monetize their business. According to CNews, Fakultet literally offered each of its users their share in the project, making their subscribers shareholders. This August the company will issue one million shares (1% of Charter Capital) and distribute among its users. The company owners are trying to both monetize their business and engage their customers in this business. Finally, other businesses, like DrugMe and Eva.ru, are looking for sponsors and advertisement.
One way or another, Russian Web 2.0 is evolving into a very creative and living organism that brings people together and offers great business opportunities to bright entrepreneurs and programmers. So, are you feeling Russian now?
Dr. Andrey Gidaspov has over ten years of experience in business consulting in the IT and telecom (ICT) fields in Russia, CIS and Asia. Andrey has sealed deals for hundreds of American companies with Russian and CIS partners, ranging from start-up businesses to large multi-national corporations throughout Eurasia. His past clients include well-known technology leaders such as Motorola, Harris, Tekelec, Oracle, Corning, Tellabs, Qualcomm, Net2Phone, Nortel, Andrew and many others.
In September 2004 Andrey opened his own consulting business, Gidabyte ( [http://www.gidabyte.com] ), based in Hong Kong, China. The company provides a wide range of business consulting in the ICT sector for international companies in Eurasia and Asia Pacific. GidaByte’s bi-monthly newsletter “GidaScope” has become an instant success ( [http://www.gidabyte.com/newsletters] ) among various businesses interested in doing business in Russia. Andrey recently authored his first book – “Riding the Russian Technology Boom” – which will soon be available on Amazon. See more info about the book at: http://www.russia.futuretext.com
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