Radio Liberty Russian website going to the dogs

Radio Liberty Website, Oct. 22, 2012

According to a report prepared by former Radio Liberty employees, the station’s Russian Service website is not being frequently updated by the recently hired team of web editors brought on board by the new director Masha Gessen. Most of the new staffers have no experience in working with multimedia websites having, by their own admission, only posted texts before they came to Radio Liberty.

Members of the old Radio Liberty highly successful Internet team were fired. They have created one of the best and the most cited multimedia news websites for radio in Russia — text-audio-video-live video-social media-podcasts/mobile devices.

Here are some of the findings sent to BBG Watch.

Dynamic updating of the Radio Liberty (Svoboda) Russia site is very weak. An invitation to visitors to send posts via Twitter about how local and regional elections are proceeding was still on the home page the day after the elections.

It appears that the new team has forgotten about the website.

The quality of texts is inferior.

On the day of the elections there were very few original Radio Liberty posts — mainly copies of the posts from Twitter. These repostings are meaningless for attracting a wider audience because search engines index only the site’s own content.

Analysis of Radio Liberty (Svoboda) New Russian Website, October 19, 2012

Part I – Top Stories

1. Ekaterina Samutsevich (Pussy Riot) complains about inhumanity. This news from early morning of Oct. 19 was published at 1:20 PM, Oct. 19 with a link to the Kommersant newspaper. Delay of several hours.

2. Arrest of activist Konstantin Lebedev. Delay of 8 hours.

3. Magnitsky case- evidence from the psychiatrist. News from October 18. Published October 19, 12:43 PM. Delay of well over 12 hours.

Analysis: Two top news stories at noon on Oct. 19 covered yesterday’s events.

Part II – Five Themes of the Week

1. Newsweek is going to Internet. News from early morning of Oct. 18. Published on Oct. 19, 10:09 AM. A delay of over 24 hours.

2. How many gays in America? News from unknown date. Published on Oct. 19, 9:55 AM.

3. Good bye, Emmanuelle. News from Oct. 17. Published on Oct. 19, 7:40 PM. A delay of two days.

4. Scotland between London and EU. Published on Oct. 18, 5:35 PM.

5. In Memory of Koji Wakamatsu. Japanese director died on Oct. 17. News was published on Oct. 18, 4:26 PM. One day late.

Analysis: no today’s articles and no Russian news.

Part III – Video/Photo

1. Photo gallery “Women in Prison” was published on Oct. 16. No authors of photos were identified, they may have not been exclusive photos from RFE/RL (Radio Liberty news photographer was fired) but collected from the Internet.

2. Video “US Presidential Candidates Debate.” Published Oct. 17. Source: Reuters.

3. Video “Arrest of Sergey Udaltsov.” Published Oct. 17. Source: Reuters.

4. Video “Vox Populi. What do you mean when you say Free Russia?” Tomsk. Siberia. Published Oct. 17.

5. Video “Hillary Clinton about killing of US Ambassador in Libya.” Published Oct. 17. Source: Reuters.

Analysis: among five multimedia items only one was made especially for Radio Liberty.

Part IV – Interviews

Among three interview only one was about Russian events – a talk with Leonid Volkov. News from Oct. 17. Published Oct. 18. One day delay.

The other two interviews did not deal with actual news events.

Analysis: The “Interviews” Segment doesn’t provide the Russian audience with fresh and exclusive information.

Overall Evaluation of Radio Liberty (Svoboda) Russian Website

The quality of the site and user browsing experience are declining due to the lack of fresh news and factual information.

The new web team is not able to present site visitors with exclusive information and tries to “imitate exclusivity” by putting everywhere the “On Radio Svoboda Only” banner. This is bound to annoy site visitors when they discover that the information is neither new nor exclusive.

Since of of the new Russian Service director Masha Gessen’s selling points is “Wide distribution of Radio Liberty content throughout Russian Internet/Media,” hardly any media outlets will be interested in outdated and non-exclusive reports.

The difference between the old Radio Liberty site and the new Radio Liberty site can be easily seen through the Citation Index. Over the period of two and half years, the old Radio Liberty website was in the second place after Echo Moskvy radio site (1 million listeners to FM radio broadcasting daily). The citation numbers for the new Radio Liberty site are declining.

This report was prepared for BBG Watch by Tatiana Skorobogatko, a former RL Internet team editor.

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