Demand for Online News under Government Control: Evidence from Russia
50 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2017 Last revised: 24 May 2021
Date Written: May 22, 2021
We examine the nature of consumer demand for government-controlled online news outlets in Russia, testing whether such demand reflects a preference for pro-government ideological coverage, or other factors unrelated to outlets' ideological positions. We detect government-sensitive topics and measure outlets' news reporting decisions from news article texts, and estimate a structural model of demand for news using detailed browsing data that traces individual-level consumption. The average consumer has a distaste for pro-government ideology but a strong persistent taste for state-owned outlets, primarily driven by third-party referrals and non-sensitive news content. We discuss implications for online media control and media power.
Keywords: Media, Media Capture, Censorship, Demand for News, Consumer Heterogeneity, Differentiated Products, Text as Data
JEL Classification: C11, C55, D72, L15, L82, L86, M31, P26
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