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Moldovan News Outlet on Top

7 June 2018
Russian news outlets dominate on Twitter in the Russian Commonwealth - but media in smaller nations, including Moldova or Kyrgyzstan, are far more effective in controlling their domestic markets.
 
The Twitter penetration in the former Soviet Union is still very low, as these heavily Russian-speaking nations are flocking to their own, domestic social media. The largest Twitter market by number of users is Russia, with nearly five million users, followed by Kazakhstan and Belarus. The Russian Twitter market dwarfs all other countries in the region: the number of its users is more than double compared to all the other nations combined.
 
When it comes to the share of Twitter users in total population, Kazakhstan leads with 3.7%, ahead of Russia and Belarus, according to data gathered by MediaPowerMonitor Research unit.
 
Big Boys in Small Countries
Nevertheless, the most effective news outlet in the region hails from one of the smallest Twitter markets, Moldova. The country is estimated by Twitter to have less than 10,000 users. The news site Unimedia controls all of them and more, according to the MediaPowerMonitor's Twitter News Index. With an index of over 140, Unimedia is the most effective news media website on Twitter in the Russian Commonwealth. An index of over 100 shows that a media outlet draws not only on its local population, but also on readers from other countries. In Unimedia’s case, they are likely to come from Romania because of linguistic affinities. In both Romania and Moldova, people speak Romanian. A large part of the Moldovan population also speaks Russian.
 

 
Established in 2017 by a group of journalists, Unimedia is one the largest news portals on the Moldovan market. Since 2012, the site has been embroiled in a slew of disputes with Publika TV, an all-news TV station started by Sorin Ovidiu Vintu and Vladimir Plahotniuc, two controversy-laden businessmen from Romania and Moldova, respectively.
 
The second biggest news media outlet in the Russian Commonwealth Twitter is Mass.mn, a news portal targeting Mongolia. The portal reaches all 83,000 or so Twitter users from Mongolia and has more followers from abroad. Mass.mn is run by Mass Agency, a company controlled by Davaabayar Ch, who used to be a member of the Democratic Party (he ran in elections for them in 2016) in Mongolia, according to data from Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a global NGO.
 
The third most prominent player in the Twitter Index is Kaktus Media from Kyrgyzstan, a news portal with a turbulent history peppered with numerous clashes with the country’s government. The site, which used to operate as Zanoza.kg until 2017, was enmeshed in a cascade of lawsuits that had been lodged by Kyrgyz authorities under the leadership of the nation’s former president Almazbek Atambayev.
 
The Russian Bears
The largest Russian news media outlet present in the Twitter Index is Muz-TV, an entertainment music channel drawing mostly young audiences. It has nearly five million followers. Muz-TV is followed by Vesti (Russia 24), a Russian-language TV channel specializing in news. It is controlled by the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK), the Russian state corporation running a string of TV and radio channels.
 
Overall, Russia dominates the Twitter Index with a total of 20 news outlets among the 65 outlets with an index of at least 10 (those reaching at least 10 Twitter users in a given market); however much of that success is accounted for by the size of the Russian market.
 
This is likely to secure Russia’s grip on Twitter in the years to come. While local media experts say that the network has immense potential to grow in the Russian Commonwealth, there are scarce signs that this will happen anytime soon. The Russian-speaking markets are very much locked into the region’s domestic social networks, including Odnoklassniki and VK. Twitter is now mostly used by liberal elites in the countries that belonged to the former Soviet Union. Journalists in particular use it for increased exposure. Other than that, there are no reasons to believe that Twitter will ever match the might of its local rivals. For example, in December 2017, VK had 460 million users, according to their own data figures.
 
Nevertheless, countries like Armenia or Uzbekistan are likely to experience growing usage of Twitter, as both feature an increasing number of media outlets that try to recruit readers through the platform. Likewise, in Azerbaijan, the fourth largest Twitter market in the region, the network is playing an increasingly big role in boosting the reach of independent media; Twitter’s potential there should definitely not be underestimated.
 
Photo: Thinkstock

 
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