Discussion Paper Details

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Title: Demand for Online News under Government Control: Evidence from Russia

Author(s): Justin Rao and Andrey Simonov

Publication Date: June 2021

Keyword(s): Censorship, Demand for News, media, media capture, product differentiation and Text as Data

Programme Area(s): Development Economics, Industrial Organization and Public Economics

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.

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Bibliographic Reference

Rao, J and Simonov, A. 2021. 'Demand for Online News under Government Control: Evidence from Russia'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.