DP16233 Demand for Online News under Government Control: Evidence from Russia

Author(s): Justin Rao, Andrey Simonov
Publication Date: June 2021
Keyword(s): Censorship, Demand for News, media, media capture, product differentiation, Text as Data
JEL(s): C11, C55, D72, L15, L82, L86, M31, P26
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Industrial Organization, Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16233

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.