Why Alexander Lebedev Should Own RUSSIA.com

March 06, 2014  |   How to Buy & Sell Websites   |     |   Comments Off on Why Alexander Lebedev Should Own RUSSIA.com

As an adviser and broker to businesses involved in online media, and as a student of international business, I often see opportunities for businesses that are not my clients. One such opportunity is with the undeveloped, but extremely important, online media asset Russia.com.

This short piece details why Alexander Lebedev & Novaya Gazeta should own RUSSIA.com: The same quality content from Novaya Gazeta’s local investigative journalism can be broadcast to a global readership that global advertisers want to reach.

About Russia.com
The domain name Russia.com made news in 2009 when it was sold by NewMedia Holdings founder Gregory Paley for $1.5 million to an anonymous buyer. Mr. Paley owned and operated Russia.com as an online portal about Russia from 1995 to 2009.

Following the purchase in 2009, the new owners have not developed any content on the website yet. It is currently a parked page with domain registrar Godaddy.

About Novaya Gazeta
Novaya Gazeta is a Russian newspaper owned by former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, businessman Alexander Lebedev, and its staff members. It publishes its Russian print edition on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. And it also publishes content on its Russian- & English-language website NovayaGazeta.ru

The paper is well-known for doing risky in-depth investigative journalism that most media outlets in Russia and around the world do not do.

About Alexander Lebedev
Alexander Lebedev is a Russian businessman who also owns UK newspapers London Evening Standard, The Independent, and i newspaper. He is active in social media and thus understands the power of the Internet in this new media world.

The Challenge for Newspapers in the New Media World
The big challenge that regional newspapers face is, as people consume more and more news on the Internet, a newspaper’s audience, already limited by geographical boundaries, begins to diminish. Hence many national newspapers worldwide have suffered declines over the last decade. The move to the Internet has been difficult for most papers because the dominant brand on the newsstand is not the dominant brand on the Internet.

Today, if a Russian living in New York is interested in Russian news, he can’t receive Novaya Gazeta’s print edition. So like most people, he begins his search at one of the popular search engines like Google. Google delivers to him a list of website results dominated by popular .com global news websites.

The top website results will inevitably be the sections devoted to Russia in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, Reuters, etc. .RU (or any ccTLD) websites will not get a top 10 ranking on the global stage. Search engines consider them local websites for local readers. This is how search engines work.

Russian Newspapers Online Reach in the United States
The online analytics company Compete that measures website visits in the U.S. indicates that even the biggest Russian news websites like KP.ru and Pravda.ru receive only about 125,000 unique visits per month in the U.S.

The Russian-American population alone is over 3 million. And Google US receives millions of searches about Russia every month. Thus, this huge demand for information about Russia is served primarily by the small sections devoted to Russia on U.S. news websites.

So imagine if a local Russian newspaper can serve millions of international readers outside its geographical boundaries every month? It becomes a global newspaper. It becomes a global media business.

Opportunity – Local Newspaper, Global Reach
This is the opportunity that Russia.com offers. .COM is the global TLD that is recognized worldwide. But even more important to search engines is that single word “Russia” in the domain name. Search engines worldwide will give Russia.com high ranking. As such, with Russia.com, a local Russian newspaper steps up and competes with any newspaper that covers Russia anywhere in the world.

The “country .com” domain names of most developed countries have been mined for “media gold” already. Russia is the 9th most populated country in the world with 143 million people. And Russia.com serves none of these people.

Of course, a Russia.com website can cover more than just business and politics. It can offer diverse content such as articles about sports, travel, arts, and entertainment in Russia.

30% Annual Internet User Growth in Russia
Internet penetration in Russia is at about 59%. So about 80 million people are Internet users and produced €8 billion in e-commerce in 2013. The top search engines used are Yandex and Google.ru. But the key statistic is that the Internet user growth rate is 30% year-over-year. As such, more and more people in Russia will be consuming their news on the Internet over time.

The Russian market potential is good but the global market is even bigger and better. Russian- and English-speaking readers all over the world who are interested in Russian news and the Russian perspective need a global media outlet to turn to. Whichever media company owns Russia.com owns this audience in our new media world.

From Novaya Gazeta to RUSSIA.com
Novaya Gazeta is the right media enterprise for the Russia.com brand because of its strong local roots, independent ownership structure, courageous investigative journalism, and large database of quality content. And as an independent player, it can move faster than its bigger competitors in this new media space.

RUSSIA.com – the same quality content from Novaya Gazeta’s local investigative journalism broadcast to a global readership that global advertisers want to reach.

The game is no longer played at the local newsstand where newspapers compete for local eyeballs. The game is now played on laptops, tablets, and mobile phones for global eyeballs.

This is “New Media.” Novye Media should add Russia.com to its holdings.

**Disclosure: The author has no personal or professional relationships with Alexander Lebedev, Novaya Gazeta, or any other parties mentioned in this article. These observations are from an independent professional. This disclosure statement will be updated if these circumstances change.


Kris Tabetando provides mergers & acquisitions (M&A) advisory and brokerage services to Internet companies. He also partners with investors to acquire & manage Internet businesses.

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