Demand for Online News under Government Control: Evidence from Russia

50 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2017 Last revised: 24 May 2021

See all articles by Andrey Simonov

Andrey Simonov

Columbia University - Columbia Business School

Justin M. Rao

Microsoft Research; Microsoft Corporation - Microsoft Research - Redmond

Date Written: May 22, 2021

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Simonov, Andrey and Rao, Justin M., Demand for Online News under Government Control: Evidence from Russia (May 22, 2021). Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 17-100, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3051165 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3051165

Andrey Simonov (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Columbia Business School ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Justin M. Rao

Microsoft Research ( email )

641 Avenue of Americas
7th Floor
New York, NY 11249
United States

Microsoft Corporation - Microsoft Research - Redmond ( email )

Building 99
Redmond, WA
United States

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