From Russia With Love: Different Media, Similar Challenges… A Mr. Magazine™ Musing.December 1, 2014
The Russian press and magazines face the same challenges as the American magazines and magazine media. Distribution, advertising and the future of print are mainly the three major areas of concern a visitor to Moscow discovers during the first few hours of his visit to Russia. Amazingly they are the same challenges facing the American magazine market.
I was invited to keynote the annual conference of the Press Distributors Association (PDA) in Moscow last week. My hosts, Dmitry Martynov and Alexander Oskin, president and chairman of the board of the PDA respectively, asked me to address their annual conference on a topic close to my heart, the power of print in a digital age. I was more than happy to oblige.
The PDA arranged for me visits with major magazine and newspaper companies in Moscow and visits with leaders in The State Duma (The Russian Congress) and the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications. My host at The State Duma was Andrey V. Tumanov, first deputy chairman of the committee for information politics, information technology and communication. At the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communication, I met with the agency’s deputy head Vladimir V. Grigoriev.
During my visit to the Duma I was treated to a tour of the chambers of all major political parties in Russia and a lunch at the Duma’s cafeteria. At the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communication Mr. Grigoriev and I engaged in a healthy conversation about the future of print in a digital age. His main areas of concern are books and preserving archives and historical records. “We have records on paper since the invention of paper and they still exist,” he told me. “With digital you have to update the digital files almost every five years to preserve them. Technology and technological devices are changing so fast, that what you save today will not work tomorrow unless you keep on updating the files.”
Mr. Grigoriev is focusing the agency’s effort on books as the major printed medium to preserve. He sees little, if any, role of news in newspapers or magazines. “The newspapers and magazines have to be in the business of explaining and editorializing. They have to tell their audience what the news means to them or how it impacts them.”
Mr. Grigoriev adds, “It is the not the medium that have the problem, it is what you put in the medium.”
The PDA arranged for an additional three meetings with different media companies. I met and interviewed the CEO of Burda Russia Jürgen Ulrich, the CEO of Kommersant Pavel Filenkov, and the General Director of Za Rulem Alexey Vasin. In the next three days I will be publishing my interviews with the aforementioned media leaders.
At my final dinner with my hosts Dr. Martynov and Dr. Oskin of the PDA, we engaged in a conversation about the problems facing the Russian and American press and magazine markets. The challenges are many, and the similarities are even more. Maybe, we can leave the political differences aside and work together to find common ground to solve the magazine and magazine media challenges together. As I usually say, there is hope, there is always hope.