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Weekly Digest: Digital Migrations and Real-Life Moves

Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every Friday, we bring you important news stories from the world of media – and try to put them in a wider context.

Last weekend saw sweeping protests across Russia, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets in almost 200 towns and cities. The protests were caused by the arrest of opposition politician Alexei Navalny, as well as by the release of an investigative documentary on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s corruption by Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.

The success of this documentary arguably shows the power of digital investigative reporting to shape the public discourse, even in an authoritarian country with a high degree of censorship like Russia. Since its release on January 19th, the film has already gathered over 100 million views on YouTube. According to preliminary analysis of search engine data, Navalny has never been more popular among Internet users and the protests have marked “real-life” impact.

While Navalny himself is a politician, not a journalist in the classic sense, his organisation has widely used investigative reporting, and he has created the most successful investigative publication in Russia. The “Palace for Putin” documentary seems to be its most impactful investigation so far.

Telegram has been drawing attention this week, with the continuous flock of new users thanks to the WhatsApp privacy controversy and to social media bans of far-right actors.

According to a new piece by The New York Times, 25 million new users joined Telegram “in the days after Twitter and Facebook, reacting to the Jan. 6 mayhem at the Capitol, purged users they deemed responsible for having incited violence or spread disinformation.”

Last Friday, Donald Trump Jr., President Trump’s son, announced he had joined Telegram. This makes him one of the most influential US conservative figures to embrace the platform so far. With over 900k followers, his outlet has already cracked the top-60 most popular channels on Telegram.

This “digital migration,” as Telegram’s founder Pavel Durov referred to it, has led to questions about Telegram’s procedures handling misinformation and hate speech. In an update announced on January 28th, the platform made it easier to report fake channels and groups.

More from The Fix: How Telegram harbours far-right groups 

Last week, we wrote about the newsletter (platform) boom marked by a new newsletter platform planned by Forbes. This week, “newsletter acquisition frenzy” has shown itself in Twitter buying Revue, a service for publishing editorial newsletters.

As The Fix put it, even after the last year’s sharp rise of the newsletter industry, “2021 looks to be even more intense – with a flurry of big headlines coming in just three weeks.”

More from The Fix: Twitter buys Revue amid newsletter acquisition frenzy / Ex-New Yorker and BuzzFeed newsletter director explains how email can become a newsroom’s biggest driver of revenue 

Another booming industry is audio, with the rapid growth of podcasts and spoken word audio more broadly. Axios points out one “hot new thing” – audio social media.

This week, Axios learned that Clubhouse, a US-based audio social network, raised some $100 million and has been valued at $1 billion. The pandemic with its social isolation and Zoom fatigue, as well as “the ubiquity of AirPods and other hands-free devices” make audio-first formats compelling.

Clubhouse is far from alone in this field. Just recently, Twitter launched “Spaces,” an audio-based communications feature, and acquired Breaker, a social podcasting app. Axios notes several other players in the audio field, including Yac, Wavve, Riffr, and Spoon.

More from The Fix: Models for news media in 2021 

Bonus — Five more news stories you might want to check out:

Photo by Taras Shypka on Unsplash

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