Monday, 28 July 2008

Reinventing a stodgy grey paper

I'm not holding this up as a model, and of course market conditions are very different. I am just pointing out that it can be done - turn around a declining audience publication into a mass seller, and on print:

Stodgy Communist youth organ evolves into raucous tabloid

MOSCOW: For decades, Komsomolskaya Pravda served up article after leaden article about Soviet officials meeting with other Soviet officials. Now, reinvented as a tabloid, the newspaper has a rowdier agenda - and a huge audience.
The paper's most-read article one recent day was a spat between a celebrity radio hostess and Kseniya Sobchak, Russia's answer to Paris Hilton.
In the newspaper's Moscow offices, a star correspondent was polishing an intrigue-filled opus on the death of the supermodel from Kazakhstan who jumped - or so the police said - from her balcony in Lower Manhattan, New York, last month. The editor in chief was lukewarm on the photo of the model in her prime: Was there one that bared a little more leg?
A 27-year-old crime reporter thought he might have a big scoop, the ultimate Russian tear-jerker: A World War II veteran said he had been robbed of his medals. Better yet, the old soldier claimed to have served with the father of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
"We'll run, before the competition beats us," the reporter, Shamil Dzhemakulov, shouted to his anxious editor. "I have all the documents!"

The newspaper is part of a vibrant tabloid culture that illustrates the complex nature of Russian life under Putin. As long as they do not threaten the Kremlin or its closest friends, it seems, Russian papers can be as raucous as they like.
For papers like Komsomolskaya Pravda, which sells more copies than any other Russian newspaper, the country's recent rollback of press freedoms is largely beside the point.
Their investigative journalism tends toward exposés of incompetent police work, corrupt low-level officials and dirty train stations, everyday problems Russians care about. And their standard fare of scandal, entertainment and "news you can use" represents a normalization of sorts in a country that for years was too poor to develop a consumer culture and too caught up with political turmoil to dwell on celebrity gossip.
Founded in 1925 as the organ of the Komsomol, the Communist Party's youth movement, Komsomolskaya Pravda has kept only its name from the Soviet past. Now, its bread-and-butter themes would not be out of place in the tabloids of New York or London.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

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