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Weekly Digest: Kremlin’s Overt and Covert Attacks

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

VTimes, an independent Russian business publication, has announced its closure in the wake of being labeled a “foreign agent” by the government. 

VTimes was founded in 2020 by former leaders of leading Russian business newspaper Vedomosti after the former had been purchased by a pro-government businessman. The new outlet quickly established itself as a leading publication on the market, but its designation as a “foreign agent” by the Russian Justice Ministry seems to have made its operation impossible.

The statement by VTimes’ newsroom cites the risks of its journalists’ criminal prosecution and the destruction of its business models as the reasons for shutting down. The outlet will close on June 12th, Russia’s Independence Day.

Although Meduza, another independent Russian-language outlet targeted by a “foreign agent” designation, has managed to survive thanks to donations, it seems this path would be less viable VTimes, a newer publication with a focus on business news. 

More from The Fix: Ex-Vedomosti journalists embark on tough path to (re)build an independent financial media in Russia / Meduza counters Russian authorities’ “foreign agent” attack with appeal to readers  

In late May, Facebook released a report on the state of “influence operations”, detailing the extent of bot networks and disinformation campaigns detected on the platform over the past four years.

The list of the top five countries where most disinformation campaigns came from (measured by the number of coordinated inauthentic behavior networks) is headed by Russia and also includes Ukraine. Most bot networks with Russian origins came from the organisations associated with pro-Kremlin businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Ukraine is also among the countries most targeted by influence operations, surpassed only by the United States.

Substack, a newsletter platform increasingly prominent in the world of US news media, is expanding its global reach.

This week, it announced the winners of its $1-million investment initiative to boost local news. Six out of twelve winners are based outside of the US, including two European journalists – from Romania and the UK.

As Axios notes, Substack “is looking to expand its international footprint in the coming months, and will start hiring more people with experience in expanding businesses globally.” The company has been valued at around $650 million, and it has over 500,000 paid subscribers. 

More from The Fix: What if the future of media is only newsletters and podcasts? Axios seems to think that’s right. 

Twitter is seeking to invest in writers and develop writer “collectives,” as shown by the latest announcement of the social media platform venturing in the local weather news business.

This week, Twitter launched “Tomorrow,” the service that will bring meteorologists and writers to provide information on local weather news. “Tomorrow” will offer some information for free and some at a $10 monthly subscription. For now, it’s available for 16 cities in North America.

Weather seems like a good fit for Twitter – not only are weather news becoming increasingly relevant in the time of climate change, but Twitter is already one of the key places for breaking news among the American audience.

As noted by Axios, the new service “represents the manifestation of a new creative vision and business model” for Twitter. It follows the platform purchasing newsletter service Revue and enabling ways for the audience to pay creators.

More from The Fix: Twitter buys Revue amid newsletter acquisition frenzy / Twitter is betting on a “cleaner” Internet

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

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