In the Russian media system the Internet has become the most open medium, thus closely corresponding to the concept of the public sphere. In 2011-2015, the number of Russian Internet users almost doubled. In 2017, the Russian Internet monthly audience was about 72.8 percent. The size of the advertising market in the period increased more than threefold, up to rubles 97bn. With its increasing penetration, the Internet is becoming the most serious challenger to the traditional television, radio and the print press.
Traditional media companies have been also active on the Internet. There are more than 5 million sites in the Russian-language sector of the Internet, RuNet. The most popular online news media in 2017 are Ria.ru with an average audience per month of 10.6 million people, Kp.ru (10.5 million), Rbc.ru (9.4 million), Gazeta.ru (7 million), Lenta.ru (6.6 million), Aif.ru (5.9 million), Mk.ru (5.7 million), Rt.com (4.9 million), Vedomosti.ru (3.6 million) and Kommersant.ru (3.6million). Convergent platforms affect traditional media practices and force them towards integration, convergent solutions, interaction with audiences and alternative agenda settings. For instance, Gazeta.ru, Lenta.ru, Republic.ru and many other media do not have offline versions, but attract big audiences online all over Russia.
Online media challenge the traditional media in terms of content, oﬀering alternative news agendas, broadening the diversity of political views, contributing to cultural pluralism. Young city residents get their news agendas from online, while middle-aged, politically concerned Russians rely upon TV or print media, especially quality press though from online versions. The most active group of Russian Internet users is young residents of industrialised urban areas. In Russian cities with a population over one million, about 70 percent of young people under 22 are active Internet users, especially mobile. In Moscow more than 90 percent schoolchildren connect to the Internet from mobile devices. The average Russian mobile Internet monthly audience was 56 percent in 2017. However, the digital divide, as deﬁned by various indicators, from access to technologies and communication networks to lifestyle and digital literacy, remains a problem in Russia.
The Russian Internet today has become a unique communication and information channel, which provides users with maximum freedom of choice and content. Political and intellectual preferences are presented on the Internet in the form of polarised viewpoints. On the one hand, the Runet allows for great freedom of choice of diverse content, ranging from information to education. Thus, political parties operate numerous sites, and a diversity of political and cultural views is created by the Internet presence of many opposition parties and politicians. Oﬃcial state agencies also are very active on the Internet offering useful services for city residents, while in big cities online banking has become more widespread than offline services. On the other hand, there are many voices in the Russian society which express a lot of concerns about information security of children and digitally illiterate people who cannot critically analyse digital environment. Some regulations adopted recently reflected these concerns.