In Russia “we don’t trust journalists, we don’t trust anyone”

Kirill Artemenko ist mit Leib und Seele dabei

Kirill Artemenko ist mit Leib und Seele bei seinem Online-Projekt „Paperpaper“ dabei

Kirill Artemenko ist ein Bachelor-Student an der St. Petersburg State University und gewillt, die Medienlandschaft in der zweitgrößten Stadt Russlands zu verbessern. Im Februar dieses Jahres rief der 21-Jährige sein mittlerweile zweites Projekt ins Leben: Das Online-Magazin „Bumaga“ (in englisch: Paperpaper) soll – anders als sein erstes Projekt iuni.ru – nicht nur Studenten, sondern alle Bürger der Stadt ansprechen. Sein nächstes Ziel ist die Finanzierung der Internetzeitung. Ich habe mit Kirill während meines Aufenthalts in St. Petersburg mit dem International Media Center Hamburg (IMCH) über seine Pläne gesprochen [1].

„Paperpaper“ is quite an unusual name for an online medium.

Before the elections we had to construct the site very quickly. It is quite ironic because everyone in the media sphere is thinking back to the days of the newspapers. We are fans of the idea of online newspapers because we are consuming online media. There is a tendency that young people don’t have a habit of reading newspapers because everyone has iPads and iPhones and other mobile devices to consume the media content. That is the future and we have to stick to this.

Your slogan on your website is: “New media with the spirit of old school” – is that your motivation?

The idea is to bring back the best from the old newspapers into the new generation. It’s possible to make quality journalism but with new technologies and opportunities. We work like the people did 30 years ago but faster.

You created the new page after the two elections in December 2011 and March 2012. How did you experience that time as a young journalist?

It was a very important period for Russia. It was the time of idealism because everyone knew that they couldn’t change the results of the election but the active part of the society wanted to fight for something new. We were among them with our former online magazine iUni.ru and covered all the meetings and all the movements. It was a great attempt to make new media and at that time we understood that a student newspaper is not enough for us.

Why?

iUni.ru was a student newspaper. The problem was that we tried to look not like a student newspaper, but we were students and we had student readers. We wanted to establish a major newspaper website without all the student topics.

What do you want to do differently now?

First of all, I want to earn money with it and involve more readers not only the students. It was our attempt to bring something new to the media sphere in St. Petersburg but we haven’t established it yet in that way we had it planned. Today I’m far more skeptical than when I started iUni.ru two years ago. Back then I thought we would start the website and then will be very popular. Now I understand that the possibility of failure is much higher than the possibility of success. But I keep on trying.

How do you want to earn money with paperpaper.ru?

To be honest, it’s not a good plan because media is not a very profitable business. Many media think of paywalls and advertisements but we think of a crowdfunding project. We think of a closed community who could sponsor their journalists. That is my dream. The problem is: I know that it’s not the time for it because the Russian audience is too conservative and we have the problem of mistrust: We don’t trust journalists, we don’t trust anyone.

Is that a Russian phenomenon?

From my experience it seems that in Germany professional journalists are more respected by the society because journalists serve people’s interest in the right way. I am so impressed by the story of your former president – Christian Wulff – and of his dismissal due to the journalists’ investigations. That is absolutely impossible in Russia.

We always speak about the lack of freedom of press but that’s not true: We can write anything about ‘United Russia’ or about corruption but nobody cares. You can publish your great investigation and it will be a blast in the internet for three days but after a week no one will care anymore.

When I was watching the news about the election and the demonstrations I didn’t get the impression that people do NOT care…

It was a minority. There are five million people in St. Petersburg but there were just 20.000 people involved in the biggest demonstrations. The participants of the protests were people who have enough money to spend their free time for protesting. They were students of the best universities, businessmen and freelancers – people from the upper class. It was a revolution of the bourgeois.

At the time between the two elections, blogs and independent online media were important. How does Paperpaper fit into the media sphere, what makes it unique?

The main idea is to publish stories that aren’t covered by the major media or to present the stories from the point of view of the new generation.

You try to involve the audience by using social media. Why?

Because of a very simple reason: the traffic. The easiest way to raise our traffic is to post it in every channel: Facebook, Twitter, VK (“in contact”), and surfingbird.ru, which is a randomized way of surfing different sites in the internet according to your interests. You don’t have to know anything about Paperpaper but still will see our page because of your interest.

What kind of feedback do you get from your readers?

In social networks I’m really interested in critical opinions and comments. If they spend time to write this comment, they care. Of course, I like positive feedback, but if everything is good, then we have nothing to change.

Is it common for Russian media to use social media?

It has become more popular but it’s still not spread among the big journalists. If you check the big newspaper and magazine websites there is no incident when the author is answering the comments. Of course, there are some new media projects but their concept relies on blogs. They invite famous, well-educated, professional people to write articles without any journalistic scheme.

Do you encourage everyone at Paperpaper to personally be in social media networks?

We don’t have time to see every comment but during the time of iUni.ru every new author had to register his Twitter account and to post his content. That was a good way to inform the audience.

Paperpaper has now about 30.000 visits per month after being online for only two months.

A lot of readers from iUni.ru came to Paperpaper. We lost some and we thought we could make the same newspaper only with the new kind of coverage. But we have a new way of coverage now and became more serious, official, and more adult. The problem is that we stopped working with a big network of students because we try to make it on our own. For example, I have a big lack of knowledge in economics and business and I’m not sure if I would be a great manager. I know how to create a network, how to find and publish news and maybe I need more experience in other matters.

[1] Das Interview wurde bereits im April geführt, aber erst vor Kurzem freigegeben. Veröffentlicht wurde es zuerst auf der Werkstatt-Seite des IMCH, das das Medienprogramm Hamburg – St. Petersburg dokumentiert.Mehr Infos über Kirill und das Projekt „Paperpaper“ gibt es im Artikel Paperpaper: made in St. Petersburg, inspired by Hamburg.

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