The Internet plays a significant role in the everyday life of Ukrainians.
According to the 2018 Factum Group Ukraine research, 21.35 million Ukrainian citizens (65 percent of the country’s population) are regular Internet users. 21.9 million (67 percent) have an Internet connection at home. The average Internet-user resulting from this study is female (52 percent), 25-34 years old (28 percent), lives in a city with a population of 100,000, and more (44 percent). As many as 27 percent of Ukraine’s Internet users live in villages and 28 percent live in small cities. The only social group which does not use the Internet often is people aged 65+ which constitute only 4 percent of Ukraine’s Internet-users.
According to a study commissioned by USAID-Internews in 2019, the largest number (68%) of Ukrainians call social networks the main source of news, television with 66% in second place. At the same time, social networks are not media in the classical sense, but rather a channel for distributing news from various sources. One such source is digital media.
According to the earlier research by InMind for Internews Network of 2018, online media are the second most popular in Ukraine after television, as 60 percent of Ukrainians visit news websites at least once per month and 57 percent use the Internet as their daily source of news. Online media are almost as trusted as TV: 52 percent of Ukrainians trust in regional news websites, while 58 percent trust in national websites.
That is, we see that from 2018 to 2019 the role of the Internet as a source of news has grown and is already taking the first place. It is also true, that television is almost as influential.
All major Ukrainian media also have news websites. TV channels and radio stations also air online. Thus, the most popular news websites are largely controlled by big media holdings.
The research by the Ukrainian Internet Association for December 2019 shows that 24tv.ua and unian.ua, the most popular news website, reach 16 percent of Ukrainians monthly. These are followed by Segodnya.ua (Today.ua; 14 percent), tsn.ua (14 percent), and obozrevatel.com (13 percent).
Online, however, is the most likely place for interesting new projects and civic initiatives. Hromadske (Civic) could serve as an example. It was launched in November 2013 by the group of Ukrainian journalists and was focused mainly on reporting about the Euromaidan. When the Euromaidan ended, Hromadske (Civic) turned into an independent TV channel and news website.
Most news websites provide an opportunity for people to create their own author columns. However, this opportunity is not open for everyone - such blogs are arranged by the editors. Thus, the person applying for the column should be famous and/or have something interesting to say. Facebook is the key platform for political and social discussions.
The Ukrainian online sphere is very fragmented. There is no legislation on the transparency of ownership and editorial boards, which allows the creation of news websites with no information about their affiliation or editorial policies, which push forward specific narratives in the interests of those who control them. The “news” circulating from these websites are put up and spread very quickly, as the audience’s “demand” for information is higher than the “supply” provided by professional journalists. This, in turn, has often a direct impact on the quality and accuracy of the news presented. Russian narratives (especially those aimed at maintaining the “disappointment” messages) easily get their way through, but it is important to remember that manipulations are often used by Ukrainian internal players in fights against each other.