Decoding the Social Media News Consumer: A Comparison of Russian-Language Vk News Publics in Ukraine and Kazakstan

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The aim of this paper is to reveal the social-demographic structure of VK news publics in Ukraine and in Kazakhstan. The role of social media in news consumption is growing, leading to growth of incidental news consumption (Fletcher & Nielsen 2018). An alternative to an incidental news exposure is a strategy of following a news organization / a journalist on social networking sites (Hermida 2012). Social media news behavior is usually studied via surveys, hence, in case of social media platform Vkontakte a direct access to the statistics of official news media pages is possible. VK is the most popular social network in post-Soviet countries and belongs to the most visited websites -3rd in Ukraine, 4th in Kazakhstan (Alexa 2019). In this study we focus on Russian-language news media VK pages in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, as Russians are the largest minorities in these two countries (Colsto 2018). The data about followers of a news organization on VK has been gathered in April and May 2019 with Pepper Ninja (demographic and socio-economic data of followers) and Popsters (interests and social media repertoire of followers). The sample consists on the official VK pages of 10 most popular news media outlets (five in Ukraine and five in Kazakhstan). For 8 of 10 pages the share of bots is estimated as higher than 10 % (in average every fourth follower is estimated by SMMUP as a fake or a banned page). Social media news consumers are older in Ukraine than in Kazakhstan, while the gender gap is more visible in Kazakhstan than in Ukraine. Professional structure of news media VK pages public is quite similar on both countries. In Ukraine, as well as in Kazakhstan directors, accountants, managers and engineers belong to the 10 most prevalent professions among news media VK pages followers. Social media news users in Kazakhstan seem to be more interested in political news than Ukrainian VK users. Followers of all Kazakh news media VK pages in our sample are also subscribed to other media outlets in Vkontakte (local and national news). This tendency is also reflected in the intersection of audiences: from 19% to 30% of four Kazakh news media VK pages followers simultaneously follow the fifth news media – that is the most popular in Kazakhstan. Social media news consumption is more widespread among big city residents in both countries. Still, the share of social media users geographically located in Russia is almost twice bigger for Kazakh news media VK pages: 10 – 12 % in comparison with 5 – 7% for Ukraine. Our findings show that the social-demographic structure of social media news users in two countries is more similar than one might expect because of their difference in the level of press freedom/democracy (Töpfl & Litvinenko 2018). The research goals are rather exploratory (presenting data sampling tools and detecting similarities and differences that might be developed in hypotheses for further research). This paper is co-authored with Anna Smoliarova Presents in panel 5E


ConferenceTECHNOLOGY, CULTURE, AND SOCIETY IN THE EURAS­IAN SPACE. 19th Annual Aleksan­teri Conference, Uni­versity of Helsinki, 23 – 25 October 2019
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