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Russia: Mapping Top Bloggers and Regional Communities

Top Bloggers

The Russian regional blogosphere as well as discussion boards are often ignored. Authors from Moscow and Saint Petersburg represent the blogger majority, but they aren’t the only ones. With the expansion of the broadband, more and more bloggers from the Russian regions start their blogs, form online communities, and foster their own leaders.

Landscape of the Russian blogosphere

Landscape of the Russian blogosphere, by Alexey Sidorenko for GVO

Figure 1. The landscape of the Russian blogosphere

The rating of top 200 bloggers provided by Yandex.ru, Russia’s most popular search engine, can serve as a good illustration of the regionalization trend. The rating is far from ideal, since about 10 percent of the top blogs got there by using search engine optimization (SEO) technologies, and not because of readership support.

Compared to November 2009, the Top 200 rating has changed significantly: over 40 percent of the current top bloggers hadn't been at the top before then. At the same time, the top 25 list has been stable: only one new blogger has reached the top of the blog ranking since then (a stand-alone blog shakin.ru). The elite of the Russian blogosphere includes such bloggers as bigpicture.ru (a photoblog), ibigdan (a news aggregator), drugoi (a photoblog; the author is an employee of SUP, a company that owns LiveJournal), teh_nomad (IT and gadgets), tema (a controversial but successful designer), katoga (a news aggregator), uborshizzza (a political blog), Lifehacker.ru (self-help, humor), Leonid Kaganov (humor), radulova (a news aggregator, also covers gender/feminism-related topics), Yandex blog (a corporate blog), zyalt (a photoblog), abstract2001 (a civil society activist), navalny (an investigative reporter and an anti-corruption activist), sergeydolya (a traveller and a photoblogger), sviridenkov (a news aggregator), plushev.com (an IT and Internet analyst), internetno.net (IT and gadgets), golubchikav (music), mi3ch (religion), Mages_Queen (a news aggregator), avmalgin (a journalist), fritzmorgen (a news aggregator), Vladimir Soloviev (a TV reporter).

Half a year ago, Moscow and Saint Petersburg top bloggers constituted ¾ of the Russian top bloggers. Now this share is 65 percent. At the same time, the share of the Russian regional bloggers has grown from 8 to 12 percent. Still, Moscow’s share in top bloggers (59 percent) is almost twice as high as Moscow’s share in the Russian Internet users (according to Spylog [RUS], it’s 32.4 percent with a diminishing trend).

An important part of the Russian blogosphere are Ukraine-based Russophone blogs, which account for 7-8 percent. Most of the Ukraine-based bloggers live in Kiev and Odessa.

Although the regionalization trend is gaining importance, the Russian blogosphere is very asymmetrical. The lack of symmetry can be explained by several reasons: 1. Internet access conditions and the time of penetration of the broadband to the city; 2. The paid-blogging phenomenon – many paid bloggers and whole networks of paid bloggers are based in Moscow. With the help of some kind of “virtual cross-fertilization” they increase each other's authority and, as a result, top the rating; 3. Size of the “market” – potentially, a blogger from Moscow can attract more readers than any blogger from a smaller town.

However, the most important reason for such asymmetry is that it actually reflects the general asymmetry of Russia. According to my own research of the Russian parliament deputies (not published, but the facts can be confirmed online), 50 percent of the deputies are from Moscow, while 40 percent are from Saint Petersburg. The conventional media landscape is “expectedly” centralized (both due to the Soviet past and the post-Soviet knowledge/capital exchange patterns). Federal TV channels and large newspapers are focused on Moscow, etc. This leads to a situation when the first reaction of bloggers is to follow Moscow or Saint Petersburg bloggers (of course, given that they can provide quality content).

Regional LiveJournal Communities

Regional LiveJournal communities are vast. We have found at least 767 active communities (it means that someone has posted in them during the last 4 weeks) with an overall audience of at least 57,700 users (although, according to the observations, the audience of the LiveJournal communities is usually bigger than the number of subscribed users).

On the average, every large Russian city has 8 active LiveJournal communities. Cities with the population of over 1 million residents have the average of 32 communities. The average number of subscribers is 3,400 there, while in the smaller cities both the diversity of communities and their audience are much smaller. Table 1 below reflects the parameters of the city blogospheres:

Table 1. Parameters of the city blogospheres

Population of the city Average number of communities Average size of the audience, users
More than 1 mln 32 3,368
From 500,000 to 1 mln 10 471
From 200,000 to 500,000 2 57

Cities with the most vibrant LJ communities are: Kaliningrad, Tver, Belgorod, Irkutsk, Tomsk. LJ communities are well-developed in the cities of the Urals as well as in the North-West regions. At the same time, the least active communities are in Omsk, Volgograd, Saratov, Barnaul, Ulyanovsk, Novokuznetsk.

The content of the regional LJ communities can be grouped into 50 subcategories and 8 general types. The most popular are “creative” communities devoted to music, photography, literature, poetry and other forms of creativity – they’re present in almost every big city. The second by popularity is the “representative” type: communities devoted to the cities themselves as well as LJ-outlets for corporate presence in the blogosphere (radio stations, journalism, PR, university groups, etc.)

Table 2. Types of LiveJournal communities in the biggest Russian cities

Type of community Topics covered Number of communities
Creative Music / photo / literature / poetry / art / theatre / museums / cinema / IT / SEO 219
Representative Regional communities / Radio / TV / Journalism / PR/ Advertising / Education / Universities / Science 167
Business Classifieds / Business / Headhunting / Real Estate / Corporate 74
Political / Humanitarian Civil Society / Politics / Philosophy / Religion / Psychology / Esoterics / History / LGBT 73
Recreational Role Playing Games / Historical Reconstruction / Hobbies / Humor / Flashmob / Chto-Gde-Kogda [EN] (a Russian intellectual game show) / KVN [EN] (a humor TV show) 72
Sports Tourism / Sports / Team Fan Clubs / Auto / 59
Style Dance / Fashion / Entertainment / Dating 55
Home Maternity  / Health / Pets / Gardening / Crafts 45

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