By Paul Goble
Declines in the cost of Internet access and innovations in computer technology have made video blogs, a phenomenon almost unknown in Russia five years ago, an influential force that may rival television as the most important channel of influence as soon as the presidential elections in 2018, according to Fyodor Krasheninnikov.
In a comment in “Vedomosti” yesterday, the Yekaterinburg political analyst says that few expected that video blogs would become so popular so quickly, but they are attracting enormous audiences, ones that are in some cases “comparable with the audience of regional TV if not exceeding it” (vedomosti.ru/opinion/columns/2016/09/06/655949-videoblogi-vibori).
One Russian video blogger, Ruslan Sokolovsky, not only has attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers but, as a result of his detention by the authorities, has become the subject of massive Youtube viewing; and Vyacheslav Maltsev, a former deputy from Saratov, has used his video blog to catapult himself into the top leadership of PARNAS.
The audiences of Russian video bloggers, Krasheninnikov says, “are qualitatively different from the audiences of traditional suppliers of visual content: it is active and easily mobilized.” Even better for those who run them, “video bloggers can monetarize their success and what is no less important, their audiences are prepared to finance them.”
It is that last quality which makes it possible for video bloggers to exist and operate “autonomously from the state and from big business.”
Video blogs, unlike traditional media, often changes its format and costs its viewers relatively little. It can thus respond more quickly to changing circumstances and to political developments than can traditional television. And not unimportantly, such video blogs can pass from the non-political to the political to the non-political at will.
That has “a curious effect” both immediately and potentially that will be difficult “to predict or prevent,” Krasheninnikov says. In the event of a crisis, political or otherwise, “such leaders of public opinion immediately and without censorship appealing to their large audience of millions may sharply change their format and begin to talk about politics.”
“And that will be the very moment,” the Yekaterinburg analyst says, “when the Internet will defeat the television,” something many have long predicted but that has not happened so far. In his opinion, this isn’t going to happen in the current elections. But by 2018, when Russians are to elect a president, “the new media could become a real force to reckon with.”