Do digital technologies matter? How hyperlocal media is re-configuring the media landscape of a Russian province
The increase of internet penetration across Russia has reduced entry barriers for individuals and companies who want to report locally. New digital technologies have given rise to many semi-professional local media projects, so-called ‘hyperlocal media’ (Metzgar et al., 2011; Tenor, 2018), created on various online platforms and social networking sites. Websites, blogs, and social media groups (the so-called ‘pabliki’ in Russian) on the popular social networking site VKontakte have opened up new access routes to local news, both for ordinary citizens and the authorities, but have also become a challenge for traditional local media. This article investigates how the media landscape changes in response to digital technologies in a provincial town of nearly 40,000 in the European part of Russia. More specifically, the article investigates how professional journalists from traditional media and practitioners from hyperlocal media sites understand the influence of digital technologies on the aims and work practices of media in a Russian province. The study is based on in-depth interviews with the editors of traditional local media (e.g. print newspapers) and owners of new hyperlocal media initiatives. The research explores different approaches to the ways in which two groups of media actors understand and make use of the internet and digital technologies. However, within peculiar Russian media model, these differences have led to collaborative rather than competitive relations between the two groups.