Without social media and the press, the “Velvet Revolution” could have evolved completely differently. To some extent, what took place was in fact a media revolution. And now, post-revolution, we can register that the media landscape in Armenia is no longer what it was until April of this year. Much has changed qualitatively and quantitatively and we will be discussing some of these changes.
Indeed, we can note that there is improvement with regards to freedom of speech. However, such important and global subjects, require long term study and we can talk about change only when the trend has become a tradition. I’m convinced that if we have no “force-majeure” situations, next year, Armenia will register a marked improvement in media and speech freedom in all international ratings. But the subject is complex and tied to numerous legislative, economic and political components, which most often also need time.
On the other hand, there are changes that have already had and continue to have evident and considerable impact in the field of information both in Armenia and the Diaspora.
a – Revolution in Social Media. The dominance of the Russian social media platform Odnoklassniki in Armenia is completely eliminated. Until recently, Odnoklassniki was the most popular social media platform in the country with as many as a million and a half active monthly users. Armenia was one of the few countries in the world where Facebook was not in the leading position. The situation began to change in the beginning of the year when the number of Facebook and Odnoklassniki users evened out. The final straw was during the revolution: Around two hundred thousand people migrated to Facebook because that was where the revolution was happening, where the political leaders had an active presence. Today, Armenia has 1.3 million active Facebook users and the numbers are growing.
b – What happened with video content is unique. What was specific to the days of the revolution, is that on one hand, a number of online media platforms and leaders of the movement were constantly going Live on Facebook and YouTube and on the other hand, traditional television stations were unable to satisfy the audience. The result was a dramatic shift – the audience moved to the web. To highlight how fundamental the shift in the domain of broadcasting was, here is statistical data on monthly views and the number of new subscribers (via Socialblade) of several Armenian YouTube channels.
Below is the statistical info from Azatutyun Radio. Pre-revolution the channel had about 38 thousand subscribers; today it has 266 thousand.
This is the statistical info from Factor TV. The station is relatively new to the Armenian media landscape but due to the revolution, it already has almost 90 thousand subscribers.
Or consider the example of 1in.am., which doubled its YouTube audience during the revolution.
The charts show that compared to the months of April and May, the number of views have dropped but Armenia is not as it was. For their daily news, people have moved to online platforms. If we add to this the sharp increase in the number of views of Facebook broadcasts, then it becomes clear that traditional TV broadcasting in Armenia has irreversibly lost its position in the market.
c – Online media is also on the rise. Of course the numbers from April-May were unprecedented in their increase and despite the fact that over the summer, when there was a decline in political activity as well as passiveness from the viewers, many media outlets sill maintain a considerable increase, and for many, almost doubled audiences (numbers).
d – The introduction of Telegram Messenger to Armenia was a new phenomenon. Until recently, there was hardly anyone using Telegram in Armenia, people were mainly using Viber. During the revolution, Telegram Messenger became a serious source of information. The popularity of the platform can be attributed to two main factors. On one hand, the banning of Telegram in Russia and Iran raised a lot of noise, which in fact garnering attention in Armenian society; it was almost reverse advertising. And, the Internet connection was often very slow during the revolution because of the unprecedented overload from Facebook and YouTube Lives (for April-May Internet providers registered 300 percent increase in traffic). In such circumstances, Telegram as a news channel, was a good solution; it did not need a stable Internet connection and worked operatively. Several dozen new “channels” were set up during and post-revolution in Armenia and the Diaspora and their audiences continue to grow and Telegram is now beginning to position itself as a separate and growing platform in Armenia.
There is no doubt that the anti-revolution propaganda campaign (by domestic players and also Russian and Azerbaijani trolls) proceeding in parallel to the political developments of post-Revolution Armenia have left a considerable impact on the media landscape of the country, but this is another topic altogether.