Print newspapers still have a role to play in the Russian media system although the general circulation and popularity of the print media dramatically decreased in 1990 – 2010s. According to RKN, in Russia in 2016 there existed 22,009 registered newspapers yet not all of them have been published. The total circulation was estimated as 6.8 million copies in 2016 compared to about 8 million in 2006.
The Russian newspaper market is divided into three geographical sectors: national (Moscow-based publications) and regional, located in big cities and large administration centers and local small settlements with the prevalence of the last two. Frequency of publication tends to decrease with a transition from dailies to weeklies. Thematically, Russian newspapers vary considerably, from quality socio-political and business ones to entertainment tabloids of general interest
Russian national quality newspapers include both general interest and business dailies such as Rossiyskaya Gazeta (136,927), Izvestia (431,200), Kommersant (93,874), Vedomosti (59,000), Nezavisimaya Gazeta (40,000). Although the quality newspapers set the news agenda and provide readers with analytical articles, the influence of their print circulations is limited to the largest industrial cities with their brands remaining influential online.
At the mass press market the leader, in terms of circulation and reach of the audience is the Metro free daily published in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov-na-Donu, Togliatti, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod and Ufa. The most significant group within print periodicals is general interest dailies, merging features of quality and mass circulation / tabloid press. They could be described as mixed-type publications tending to be socio-politically oriented with no particular thematic specialisation. In terms of distribution mass newspapers are most widely represented across the country and reach different social strata of the audience. Komsomolskaya Pravda (1.1m) is published daily in 44 Russian cities with regional inserts and is still popular in the neighboring post-Soviet states. The newspaper safeguarded its popularity outside the capital by producing inserts in cooperation with regional newspapers which turn adopted content strategies of the Moscow daily similar to sensational journalism. Moskovskiy Komsomolets (700,000) characterised by a combination of features of the analytical quality press (strife for exclusiveness, an analytical focus on political issues, investigations and the like) and of the mass press (scandalous topics, provocative headlines and so on). Other capital newspapers with regional or local inserts are Rossijskaya Gazeta daily and Argumenty i Fakty weekly (1.2m).
Among the leading newspaper publishing houses one should mention:
- Komsomolskaya Pravda: newspapers Komsomolskaya Pravda, Express Gazeta, TeleProgramma
- Argumenty i Fakty: newspapers Argumenty i Fakty, Argumenty i Fakty zdorovie, Argumenty i Fakty na dache
- Bauer Media: newspapers 777, Gvozd Sezona, Kaif po vykhodnym, Russkii krossvord
- Moskovskiy Komsomolets: newspapers Moskovskiy Komsomolets, Moskovskiy Komsomolets bulvar, Rossiiskaya okhothichiya Gazeta
- Metro: newspapers Metro Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov-na-Donu, Togliatti, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Ufa.
In terms of publishing houses ownership the newspaper market is more complicated because a long-term economic decrease in the market made it non attractive for private investments. This also explains the ownership structure of the newspaper publishing business, especially in Moscow, with a dominance of state companies and private industrial or financial holdings including:
- The Government of RF is the publisher of Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily and the Federal Assembly of RF is the publisher of Parlamentskaya Gazeta
- The group of investment companies owned by Greorgy Berezkin is considered to be the major stakeholder of Komsomolskaya Pravda, Metro (in Moscow), Delovoy Peterburg and RBK daily,
- Natsional’naya Media Gruppa (NMG) holding with diverse interests both outside and inside media industry (in on-air and cable television, film and TV production, digital services) is nowadays an owner of the Izvestiya (334,900) together with Metro Peterburg and Sports Express.
Regional and local newspapers published in Russia vary in circulations and ownership structures, but they remain important sources of local information and instruments of supporting local identities. Among the most popular regional newspapers are Moye (Voronezh, circulation 78,000), Oblastnaya gazeta (Sverdlovskaya region, 70,000), Nashe vremya (Rostov-on-Don region, 45,000), Krasnodarskie izvestiya (Krasnodar region, 32,000), Vladivostok (Vladivostok, 22 000), Lipeckaya gazeta (Lipetck region, 20 000), Kaliningradskaya pravda (Kaliningrad region, 14,000), etc Local press in Russia is numerous, and the largest circulations have the following publications: Magnitogorskii rabochii (Magnitogorsk, 80,000), Yakutsk vechernii (Yakutsk, 40,000), Odincovskaya nedelya (Odintsovo Moscow region, 50,000) and many others.
In the last decade following trends became important for the Russian newspaper market:
- newspapers in large industrial centers were able to link their distribution to urban transport and trade infrastructure and the arrival of the global phenomenon of free newspapers, together with the establishment of new lifestyles made this development even stronger;
- the regional press surviving the decrease of advertising markets became dependent on subsidies from local authorities;
- almost all Moscow-based dailies and newspapers of regional administration and economic centers became active online practically duplicating their content in digital media.
The magazine segment is currently the most globalised and successful print medium, though with more limited audience reach than newspapers. The total annual magazine circulation amounted to 1.3m copies in 2016. The leaders among magazines are weekly TV guides Antenna Telesem (1.9m) and 7 Dnei (770,000), celebrity monthly magazine Kollekciya Karavan Istorii (660,000) and weekly StarHit (520,000) and Hello! (350,000), women’s weekly Liza (650,000), with monthly special interest auto magazine Za rulem (310 000), fashion monthly magazine Burda (278 667), men's magazine Maxim (141,667), and women’s Psychologies (140,000) and Elle (135,000).
Magazine publishing, particularly Russian franchises of global brands (men’s and women’s, fashion and lifestyle, automobile, interior brands), is still more attractive to investors than newspapers and other media because of higher advertising revenues and less expensive distribution. The exposure of Russia to Western consumerism in the 1990s increased the popularity of publications carrying lifestyle content, thus making magazines more attractive to fashion and travel advertisers than other media platforms.
Leading publishers in the segment are:
- Burda: magazines Burda, Liza, Otdokhni!, Lublu gotovit
- Hearst Shkulev Pulishing: magazines Elle, Maxim, Psychologies, Marie Claire
- Bauer Media: magazines Teshchin yazyk, Zyatek, Tainy Zvezd, Vse dlya zhenshchiny
- Independent Media: magazines Cosmopolitan, Men`s Health, Harpers Bazaar, Esquire
- 7 Dnei: magazines 7 Dnei, 7 Dnei TV-Programma, Karavan istorii, Kollektciya Karavan istorii
Even more than with newspapers, magazine production and distribution are anchored not just to big cities but to Moscow. The leader is the Central Federal District (FD) comprises 59 percent of magazine titles, the Volga FD 11 percent, the North Western FD nine percent, the Siberian FD seven percent. But in terms of circulation Moscow magazine periodicals have significantly outperformed regional periodicals: capital publications account for 60 percent of the total magazine circulation. However, as in the case of newspapers, magazines are faced with the imperfections of the distribution and subscription systems. As a result, in the 2010s residents of the largest cities with populations in the millions remained the major magazine consumers because it was easier to buy magazines in kiosks anchored to the transport networks of these cities or in supermarkets.
Two recent trends have become important for the magazine sector. First, because of legal restrictions of 2014 , some foreign investors (Axel Springer, Sanoma) left the Russian market, while others (Burda, Bauer, Hearst, Condé Nast, Toloka) reduced their investment to the allowed 20 percent. Second, seeking for new production models in the context of decreasing advertising, many publishing houses have been shifting their news rooms to the use of the ‘360° model’, which means business diversification into all accessible related segments of the media market.